The space program is celebrating a milestone this April and if my luck holds out, perhaps it won’t be long before I can book my own ticket into the cosmos aboard Virgin Galactic. I’m till a bit shy of the $200,000 price tag though, so maybe someone will pay me to blog about the ideal bucket-list entry.

It was almost 50 years ago when Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to venture into space. Since then, no more than 500 people have shared this incredible adventure. However, if Richard Branson’s new company lives up to its prediction, more than 500 more will venture into space aboard Virgin Galactic’s Spaceship One this year.

Speaking this weekend at the DLD Conference in Munich Germany, Georges Whitesides talks about Virgin’s ambitious project to open space to humanity by selling tickets for $200,000 to experience a sub-orbital 2–hour flight where you will see the earth’s curvature, the galaxy, the black expanse of space and experience zero–gravity for about five minutes.

Sounds unbelievable, but ever since the X-Prize was won in 2004 by Scaled Composites, private interest in space travel has in many ways been more aggressive than most recent government initiatives. In fact, the spaceport is almost ready in New Mexico.

Aided by Dot-Com entreprenuers like Elon Musk (co-founder of Pay Pal and Tesla Motors) and Microsoft’s Paul Allen, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, both Google founders and others, private industries are fueling this resurgance of “New Space” – the final frontier.

Plans are also in the works for a complete astronaut experience including a slingshot into space and a trip around the moon.

Eric Anderson with Space Adventures has already logged over $250 million in space travel and proudly promotes his company has scheduled a 10-day lunar “boomerang” planned for 2015 which will carry a ticket price of $150 million.

Clearly, these rates are beyond the scope of most of us. At least there’s a first-step for “bargain-hunters” with a Zero-Gravity flight for a couple of hours priced $5000 to $10,000 dollars for 30 seconds.

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Both visionaries describe the momentum we’re starting to see with space adventures and were respectful of the government’s groundwork for space exploration. However, they both agree that it’s time for a change in strategy.

Greg Whitesides backhands NASA a bit though stating “NASA is much less risk tolerant.”

However, these new ventures will certainly have to reassure travelers this experience will be safe as commercial air-travel before they can see this experience go mainstream.

They both believe private industry will empower the new space race by ushering a radical shift of cost and an era of faster development times and that certainly seems to be the case.

Eric Anderson agrees that government still needs to be in the business though.

“It’s essential that government supports space. Because it’s in the strategic interest of humanity to be able to move on and off the planet. We need to grow into the solar system and develop.”

Anderson continues by saying that few endeavors have inspired children of all ages as those of space exploration and I must agree. We’ve all dreamed of being an astronaut and for many of us, the window for that opportunity is running out, but with a little luck (and don’t forget about a little profit), it looks like we may get a shot before it’s all over with and it will be a thrill to at least take a small step into the final frontier.

By the way – the blogging job is still open, so if you want to invest in the future – I take personal checks.