The era is being ushered in by a radical (at least to many) change in space policy by the Obama administration. It is not, as many in the media, and even in Congress have mistakenly and even hysterically characterized it, an "abandonment" of human spaceflight, or a "surrender" to the Chinese or Russians (pick your paranoia). Indeed, that is a bizarre interpretation of a plan that includes the extension of the International Space Station to 2020, and likely beyond; the acceleration and encouragement, with billions of dollars, of near-term commercial human spaceflight; and the development of the myriad technologies required to get humans to the moon, the asteroids and ultimately to Mars and its moons. Rather, it is a recognition that, half a century after the beginning of the space efforts, it has become a technologically mature (in performance and reliability, if not in cost) endeavor, and that NASA should shift its focus from the mundane task of getting people a couple hundred miles up into low Earth orbit, to the much more challenging issues of how to get them beyond, letting private industry pick up the slack, as they've done for the delivery of multi-hundred-million-dollar satellites for a couple of decades now.
Simberg says that there's much more enthusiasm from space activists and space entrepreneurs than most media coverage of the new Obama policy has recognized.