Saturday, November 7, 1998 Published at 18:03 GMT
Opening the final frontier
Animated adventure: Getting closer to reality?
Three decades after space was first conquered, the final frontier is increasingly being seen as within the grasp of ordinary people.
Private sector companies are already taking bookings for the ultimate trip, although the tourist space vehicles have not yet been built.
The X-Prize Foundation is offering the prize to "stimulate the development of commercial space tourism".
Foundation President Peter Diamandis said: "If you don't want to spend a decade training or if you aren't qualified to be an astronaut how can you get the chance to fly.
"We have to develop a private sector. The competition's purpose is to encourage entrepreneurs and rocket scientists to build vehicles that will take us into space."
Nasa is also encouraging private investment in the tourism space race.
While Nasa has proven the final frontier can be reached, the challenge for the private sector is to make space flights economical.
One option being looked at is to develop jets that fly to the edge of the atmosphere and jettison a passenger capsule out of the earth's gravitational field.
Companies such as Space Adventures and Zegrahm Space Voyages have taken about 100 bookings for any future flights.
Space Adventures President Mike McDowell said: "It is going to stay with people who have disposable income.
"But there are people looking at ways to open up space travel to those without $100,000."
One of those possibilities is running a lottery with a space trip as the jackpot prize.