The way I look at it, Earth started with crude multi-stage rockets like launch vehicles used in the 1960's. Then that flagship was replaced with the Space Shuttle.
And then the Space Shuttle was superseded by a Russian multi-stage rocket, originally designed in the 1960's.
Has anyone else imagined the Valiant?
The Valiant would appear to have left Earth fairly soon after Cochrane's first flight. I imagine it voyaging outward on a lifelong science and discovery mission. Occasionally trading for more advanced engines and other systems.
By the time it reached the energy barrier decades after it left Earth, it was an eclectic collection of lumpy hull designs and oddly placed engine configurations.