When you think of space tourism, chances are good that Virgin Galactic springs to mind; after all, Virgin's owner, Richard Branson, is hardly a shrinking violet when it comes to self-promotion.
Here's a sneak peek at what to expect once the company starts taking passengers: After 2-3 days of preparation, travelers will board SpaceShipTwo, a 60-foot (18-meter), six-person rocket glider slung below VirginMothership Eve. This dual-fuselage aircraft, which stretches 140 feet (43 meters) from wingtip to wingtip, will climb to 50,000 feet (15,240 meters), from which SpaceShipTwo will rocket them past the edge of space (around 62 miles, or 100 kilometers) on a parabolic flight. After five minutes of weightlessness, the space plane will "feather," using drag to slow its re-entry to 70,000 feet (21,336 meters); from there it will glide to Earth and land airplane-style [sources: Chang].
Billionaire Branson's company has also inked cooperative agreements with Sierra Nevada Space Systems and Orbital Sciences Corp., possibly to act as a broker for spaceflights aboard their respective planned passenger craft, Dream Chaser and Prometheus [sources: Chang].
Travel agents are standing by to take your reservation. A mere $20,000 deposit secures your place alongside the 430 who have booked as of January 2012, but paying the full $200,000 bumps you into Boarding Group A [source: Chang]. Don't delay!
Being a billionaire is all well and good, but sometimes money is in short supply for startup companies. In this next section, we'll see how governments and space agencies can play a role in getting the private space sector off the ground.