Lots of kids go through an astronaut phase, usually sometime between fireman and president of the United States. For the last three generations of American children dreaming of slipping the surly bonds of Earth, the only game in the galaxy has been a federal agency: the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). But since NASA's space shuttle program shuddered to a stop in July 2011 with the final flight of the Atlantis, those kids—and the adults they have become—have been forced to look outside of government for liftoff.
But as luck would have it, writes Managing Editor Katherine Mangu-Ward, there are quite a few men who would be more than happy to help. These 21st-century pioneers want to make spaceflight affordable, accessible, and commonplace, making a buck off your childhood fantasies in the process. They can't offer the moon, yet. But they can supply various modes of travel and ways to achieve the astronaut experience, with or without Tang and freeze-dried ice cream.