With any luck, the era of airline-style space tourism will have begun by early 2014. Virgin Galactic and rival Xcor both reckon such a timetable is realistic.
Either would like to claim "first flight" bragging rights, but fortunately neither gives any hint that they see themselves in a modern space race. The original space race claimed too many lives owing to haste - as if the inherent danger of rocket flight were not enough.
So it is interesting to hear both organisations argue that too much regulation would stifle space tourism. Indeed, it is hard to imagine how any civil aviation-style certification regime could be compatible with rapid, entrepreneurial development of truly novel machines.
As the rules stand, space tourism can happen because, legally, customers are willing participants and are not, like airline passengers, entitled to the protection of a government-regulated safety regime. But when an accident eventually happens, the lawyers will shred any waivers signed on the ground.
At that point, operators will hope a UK-style no-fault compensation system prevails, rather than US-style class-action lawsuits and jury-determined damages.
In the meantime, aspiring operators would do well to remember that one sound aspect of airline-style operations is to have a plan worked out in advance for managing the operational, legal, financial and publicity aspects of a disaster.