The first paragraph of "Leviathan Wakes" is driving me crazy. What do you think about it?

English Language & Usage Asked by Nicholas Lieurance on September 3, 2020

I feel like the author gets his tenses all mixed up as soon as he finishes the prologue. At the very least, the first paragraph is difficult to parse. Check it out:

A hundred and fifty years before, when the parochial disagreements
between Earth and Mars had been on the verge of war, the Belt had been a
far horizon of tremendous mineral wealth beyond viable economic reach,
and the outer planets had been beyond even the most unrealistic
corporate dream. Then Solomon Epstein had built his little modified
fusion drive, popped it on to the back of his three-man yacht, and
turned it on. With a good scope, you could still see his ship going at
a marginal percentage of the speed of light, heading out into the big
empty. The best, longest funeral in the history of mankind. The
Epstein Drive hadn’t given humanity the stars, but it had delivered
the planets.

I’m having a hard time figuring out what the author is trying to say. Did humans get the Epstein Drive 150 years ago and start exploring the asteroid belt at that point? Or did they get it earlier, so that they already "had the planets" 150 years before the events in the prologue? Could you still see Epstein’s ship with a telescope 150 years ago, or at the beginning of the story?

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