Neal Stephenson has a great article at Slate on rockets, which achieves the rather Chestertonian goal of making something familiar look strange and unlikely.  Basically, a series of improbable steps led us to adopt a fantastically expensive and challenging technology, which we’re now locked into for mysterious reasons.

(tl; dr summary: Rockets are so expensive and hard to control that they’re near-useless militarily; but the invention of atomic bombs and the existence of a long-range enemy made us invest a few trillion dollars in them; and that in turn allowed us to build profitable communications satellites— so long as they could be built to be about the size of a bomb.)