Even at $200,000 a ticket, the lines for a suborbital ride

into space may soon be growing longer. The U.S. government is proposing to

spend $75 million over the next five years to send science experiments — and

presumably scientists — into space.

“For everyone who has dreamed of participating in the grand

adventure of spaceflight, this $75 million commitment marks the dawn of a new

space age,” said Alan Stern, NASA’s former lead scientist who is now

spearheading several commercial and research agency initiatives interested in

suborbital spaceflight.

NASA’s deputy administrator Lori Garver this week outlined

plans for a $15-million-per-year program to pay for dozens of science and

educational experiments to fly on commercial suborbital vehicles. Including

Virgin Galactic, which in December unveiled its first passenger suborbital

spaceship, companies in the industry include Armadillo Aerospace, Blue Origin,

Masten Space Systems and XCOR Aerospace.

The funding is part of Pres. Obama’s $19 billion budget

request for NASA for the year beginning Oct. 1.

Also at the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers

Conference in Boulder, Colo., where Garver announced the NASA initiative,

Virgin Galactic said its passenger list for suborbital flights has now reached

300 people.

Scaled Composites of Mojave, Calif., which is building

Virgin’s spaceships,  is expected

to begin test flights of the first vehicle, named Enterprise, soon.

(The Dec. 7, 2009 debut of the world’s first commercial passenger spaceship in Mojave, Calif. Credit: Virgin Galactic.)