With all of the hype about Discovery's safe return, it seems like now would be an opportune time to look to outer space for business opportunities. And I don't mean engineering -- I mean the growing space tourism industry.

The New York Times (login required) reported this week that Space Adventures, an Arlington, Va.-based company, plans to take "space tourists" to the moon in 2008. Space Adventures has a deal with the Russian Federal Space Agency, allowing it to take two people to the moon for a maximum 3-week trip, provided they are healthy enough and can pay for the $100 million roundtrip ticket.

This isn't the first opportunity for the public to go into space. Dennis Tito became the first space tourist in 2001, traveling with Space Adventures to the International Space Station. Indeed, Burt Rutan became Inc.'s 2004 Entrepreneur of the Year with his company, Scaled Composites, through which he launched a commercial shuttle, SpaceShipOne. Inc. also covered the possibility of a space elevator between the ocean floor and a spot in orbit in its June 2004 issue.

These guys may be onto something. As Eric Anderson, President and CEO of Space Adventures said, "People thought the Internet was crazy 15 years ago. Astronauts were on the moon in the 1960s -- isn't it time that other people go there too?"