How about the unmanned probes on Mars?
I think Burt Rutan said that when he made a high altitude aircraft for NASA, the team integrating (not designing or building) the space suit with his airplane was larger than his design team...
Consider the funding -- and what you get for it. There has been f.ck all in research for alternative launch methods. NASA was funded for multiple projects for making alternative launchers -- all died. Etc, etc.
Now there are a bunch of nerds with money that starts their own launch businesses. They wouldn't do that without a free ecological niche...
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