So, I’m thinking about Mars and what the planet can mean to this story.
Mars is big. Important. It’s the next major step in human expansion, realistically, and the moon makes it much more possible. The lunar surface is a far better staging area and training environment for a Martian colony than anything that we have on Earth, so—once we’ve been on the moon for a while—it’s only natural for us to turn it’s function towards the next stage. Probably in the next couple of years, setting-wise.
Thus, I think a lot of the people that we’re going to meet are where they are because they’re preparing for the Martian expansion. Something more immediately large-scale would be ultimately more cost effective than ferrying little teams back and forth for a decade in an effort to establish living conditions, and that’s what everyone is counting on. A lot of these people are probably going to want a seat on that ride. They’re going to be pushing themselves to be the best at their jobs. Not just visible, but clearly seen.
It’s probably what Kerensky’s young assistant is hoping to do when he dies and she finds herself taking over his job.