Always wanted to go to space, but put off by Richard Branson's beard (or the hundreds of thousands of dollars he also wants)? A US not-for-profit might be able to get you there on the cheap — but better get crossing those fingers.

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Spaceship Earth Grants's business model is very simple: fork over a bit of cash (between $15 and $90, dependinvg on your country), and you get a 1 in 50,000 chance of winning a ticket to space on something like Virgin Galactic. Applicants aren't chosen at random, though — you have to complete a mini-CV explaining how going to space would enhance your life, making kiddies happier and puppies cuter, etc. The final choice is made by an illustrious panel of space-people, including former NASA astronauts.

Although on the face of it, this seems like a pretty good deal — 90 bucks to go to space! — the cost/reward ratio isn't great: if everyone pays an average of $50 to enter, that means that Spaceship Earth Grants are getting $2.5 million for every 50,000 applicants, while they only have to provide one ticket to space for that. Given that a Virgin Galactic ticket will currently run you $250,000, that's not such a great deal.

So, if you've got the mother of all sob stories — or you want to send other people to space! — apply away. The rest of us are probably better off waiting for those space elevators to become reality. [Gizmag]

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