If you want to see how a private company can blow away a public operation (NASA, in this case) in technology, innovation and speed of idea to product, read on -- and prepare to be impressed, in the true meaning of the word!
Virgin Galactic plans tourist flights starting in 2011 with its revolutionary SpaceflightTwo. When you visit the site, check out the "Overview" link. After that, click on the "Safety" link and see how these geniuses have made a product that will go into space easily and virtually danger free. The ideas are so ingenious and so simple, it boggles the mind that NASA hasn't discovered them with tens of billions of dollars in government funding. Also, check out the videos. Remember to close your jaw after watching.
The original cost of the space flights will be $200,000 for a seat (up to six passengers at first). But by the end of the next decade, this price will no doubt fall into the tens of thousands and perhaps even the thousands.
This kind of explorational capitalist venture is indicative of what we Americans would've had in this country decades ago if the citizens had not wanted the politicians to pilfer and rob us of our fortunes, which could be used for extraordinary venture capitalism. My hat is off and I bow to Richard Branson and Dick Rutan for their remarkable courage and creativity and selfishness in the making of SpaceShipTwo!
Oh, I almost forgot. While you're at their wonderful site, be sure not to forget to click on "Booking." I'll be up there within the decade. Will you join me?