As someone who got into back-yard astronomy a year or so ago, I can tell you that it's not so much the problem seeing anything as just never having looked.
I live in London. Way inside the boundaries of the M25, the motorway that circles London and distinguishes "Greater London" from the green belt which surrounds it. I have for most of my life. I live in the middle of a large town in London, it's complete suburban sprawl and the parks are the only break in it.
From my back-yard (which joins onto the back yards of 20+ other houses in a circle), I can see the planets and stars. We watched ISS traverse with the naked eye just the other night (because someone suggested it could be misconstrued as "Santa's Sleigh" to the right age of child). Nebulae are a struggle, but to image them is no more difficult than anywhere else (this is the bit where you need long exposures and motorised equipment anyway).
As a complete amateur, I can tell you that with the naked eye I can see hundreds of times more than I ever expected. I just wasn't looking. With a telescope, I can see anything I choose to see. I have imaged the larger planets with incredibly short exposures through a very cheap telescope. It's all there to see. A bigger hindrance, to me, is that the horizon is artificially raised by nearby houses, fences, etc. not that the light pollution from all those houses is destroying my enjoyment (and, trust me, I've yelled several times when a neighbours outside halogen PIR light turns on just as I got my night-vision).
I've been to Scotland, into the middle of the Highlands miles from anywhere, and seen Venus with the naked eye while driving there. The stars are "better" up there, but not magnificently so. I've been to Italy, into the middle of the North where it's all fields and no towns, and the same things happens - yes, it's slightly easier, and you can pick out the Milky Way easier, but it's not like the overlay you get on TV shows when they want to depict night-time. Unless you're in the middle of nowhere and spend hours acclimatising and have good eyesight or good equipment, it won't be. More likely to destroy your enjoyment of the stars is the weather, the cycle of what's actually up to see, spending hours aligning equipment and tracking (I don't like go-to technology as I feel it's cheating, so I do everything with push-to technology at worst, but manual hunting most of the time), and just the general difficulty of finding something interesting to look at.
I made some photos on the first few days of tying a Canon SLR to my telescope with some hodge-podge connections (one of them is actually taken through the eyepiece by holding the camera close). I consider them the worst photos I have taken, taken from London, with only manual tracking available, which is what piqued my interest - if this is the worst you can do with cheap equipment and no knowledge, what could you do after some practice and good equipment? Have a look, and you can also see my equipment:
There's a ton to see, even in the middle of a city. The light pollution - sure, I imagine it can be an issue and put a threshold on things. But, for the casual observer, it's only really an issue if you live close enough to the city to be priced out of owning a garden anyway. Hell, the local astronomy club meets in a park NEARER to central London - so far, in fact, that I can't be bothered to drive up there.
Don't believe the crap about not being able to see the night sky in an urban area. It's there. And even without any equipment, you can still see hundreds of stars, which is more than enough to start from (stars are VERY boring in any telescope that costs less than your car).
Yes, I intend to bring my equipment to Italy next time my girlfriend drags me over, but I will still need the equipment, and still have the same hassles as at home (except it'll be mountains in the way and not fences).
And, to be honest, I see amateur astronomy and interest in space technology as two entirely separate things. Very little man-made stuff is visible (the ISS is a rare exception when it's oriented the right way to shine down) at all - it's all natural up there. You can dig out a telescope at an evening dinner and everyone will be wowed by the crates on the Moon in close, sharp detail, or the brief glimpse of a planet. Nobody will care at all about anything man-made up there.