How does space travel stand a chance?
Brandon is fond of trotting out the age of exploration, although it seems that he really doesn't know much about it. No one who engaged in these pursuits did so on the governments dime unless they could show a reasonable prospect of a quick return on the investment. Even after the Spanish had established a paying empire in the West Indies, new ventures were set up on a "pay as you go basis," and were often even discouraged. Cortés just barely got out of Cuba ahead of a warrant for his arrest, and while he was in Mexico, another expedition was sent out to arrest him. Those conquistadores
such as him and Pizzaro worked on a simple basis. They took a royal accountant along with them, and 20% went to the King, who would retrospectively approve the venture, and grant charters with exclusive trade rights and large grants of land. The church would send along one or more priests or friars who would see to it that the church got 20%, and they would approve the venture on the basis of bringing pagans to an understanding of the true mercy of Jesus Christ (lessons usually delivered at the point of a sword). The leader of the expedition got 20%, the officers split 20% and the remaining 20% was divided among the surviving private soldiers.
Nobody, but nobody expected government to fund these expeditions. The English were even more tight fisted, they just handed out charters for exclusive trade rights, and if the venture failed, as in the example of the Virginia Company, they stepped in and took over the company.
As for Engineer's question which i have quoted above, the best example would be the Portuguese. Prince Henry the Navigator, the third son of the King of Portugal (and therefore without much hope of becoming king himself) convinced Daddy to fund an expedition to take Cueta on the coast of North Africa in 1415. It succeeded, and Henry had a flash of insight into what kind of wealth he believed
they could obtain by making further ventures on the African coast. They didn't work out, because the Moors weren't going to get suckered twice, and Henry's further military ventures were all failures. So, bankrupting his personal finances in the process, he promoted further ventures which crept gradually south along the coast of Africa, often getting no return on investment, but limping along getting a little gold and taking slaves to sell to the Moors, so that he was able to maintain a modest program for most of the rest of his life. They crept along south on the Africa coast. They "rediscovered" Madeira in 1420, they discovered the Azores in 1430. It was not until the mid-1440s that ships began sailing home from what is now Lagos in Nigeria with modest cargos of gold and slaves which helped keep Henry in funds.
The Portuguese did not make a big strike until Vasco da Gama's expedition in 1498. That was more than 80 years, more than three generations after Henry began his ventures. Da Gama picked up an Arab navigator at Malindi on the east coast of Africa, and with unheard of boldness (other than the example of Columbus) struck out across the Indian Ocean, landing at Goa. Only one of his ships survived the expedition, and that a small one, while more than half of the crews of his original five vessels were lost. But that one ship brought back riches from India which were worth about 15 times the cost of the entire, original expedition.
This is likely how it will work out in space. As the distances and the degree of difficulty are so much greater, so the time scales are likely to be that much greater. I suspect that people will potter around in space, making modest advances at a snail's pace, and after many, many years, it might provide some return on investment which will justify the expenditure. Some day, when we make it to the asteroid belt i suspect, there might be a return on investment to rival Da Gama's 1498 voyage. But it will take a hell of a lot longer than the 80+ years from the beginning of the voyages sponsored Prince Henry to the landing in Goa.
I suspect that a lot of Brandon's reaction is simply frustration that nothing noteworthy will be accomplished in his lifetime.