According to a PopSci photo gallery report, Virgin Galactic is expected to begin ferrying passengers to sub-orbital space as soon as 2011. The Virgin Galactic website is already booking space ventures with their "over 300 Virgin Galactic astronauts."
Sir Richard Branson and designer Burt Rutan unveiled SpaceShipTwo earlier this year, just four years after Branson and Rutan formed 'The SpaceShip Company. In August Governors Bill Richardson and Arnold Schwarzenegger named "SS2" the VSS Enterprise. "Mothership Eve" debuted at AirVenture in July. The picture above includes Mothership Eve with the Enterprise.
I'm of two minds about this: The idea of space tourism is a bit nauseating to me, but with continuing budge cuts making it difficult for scientists to get funding for hard research, private ventures are essential for advancing technology today. The idea of such casual space ventures were still very much science fiction even a decade ago, but Branson and Rutan are making it science fact.
It makes me want to see the Sundance 2010 official selection Space Tourists even more (trailer after the jump).