All this, Virgin says, can be yours for a mere $200,000, perhaps as early as next year, although company president Will Whitehorn says you'll have to take a number behind the 300 passengers that have already put down deposits to do it. For now, space tourists (a term the industry intensely dislikes, preferring to call them "spaceflight participants" or "space explorers") are the cornerstone of Virgin's business model, but with NASA struggling to fund its lofty dreams of missions to the moon and beyond, and with the shuttle headed for retirement, Virgin and dozens of other private space entrepreneurs see a golden opportunity to do something much more fundamental—and more profitable. Beyond carrying wealthy passengers into suborbital space, Whitehorn says, Virgin could also launch rockets and satellites, provide affordable transport for scientists who want to do microgravity experiments in space, and even establish a private astronaut-training program. Seen in that light, space tourists become much more than just the idle rich undertaking a mind-blowing experience for the thrill of it. Indeed, the space industry says that demand from tourists—and companies that need satellites—will provide the seed capital for what is, in effect, the privatization of space.