History will remember the inhabitants of this century as the people who went from Kitty Hawk to the moon in 66 years, only to languish for the next 30 in low Earth orbit. At the core of the risk-free society is a self-indulgent failure of nerve.
Man's first visits to the moon were like his first visits to the South Pole: heroic efforts driven by national pride and prestige that pushed the limits of what was possible with contemporary technology. leaving little behind but flags and footprints. After Scott and his men left the South Pole, we would not return for 44 years.
When we came back it was with radically improved technology developed for other purposes: a DC-3 with JATO bottles instead of muscle powered sleds.
The slowed pace of manned spaceflight since Apollo isn't a failure of will, it's just an adjustment to an environment in which manned spaceflight no longer comes out of the lavish Showing the Damned Commies We're Awesome budget.
NASA's budget for 2010 is over $18 billion. Putting canned primate into space is expensive, and making it less expensive is expensive. We can be patient: the Solar System is not going away.