The economic situation in the world over the next few years may make the idea of settling space seem like a pipe dream. If part of the cure for our debt problem lies in creating a larger economy, however, expanding into space should be one engine harnessed.
Virtually all of the natural resources of the Solar System lie beyond Earth. We currently have the ability to begin resource-mapping other worlds as well as to assay asteroids-- and we have private, commercial firms building to meet the challenge of making profits directly from space operations. When that can be done, we should see an economic expansion rolling on indefinitely, creating a human economy no one today can imagine.
Can the same bunch of politicians and economists, essentially, that let the world economy nearly collapse now lay the legal and financial foundation that will support a vibrant economy that increasingly incorporates resources and products from beyond Earth? Over the next few years, that question will be answered.