Listening to Eric Anderson state his mission — “to provide opportunities for people to experience space travel, whether it’s on the ground or actually in space” — you might be tempted to dismiss him as a far-out space cadet.

Don’t. The CEO and president of Space Adventures Ltd. is a serious businessman who has put his money — and other people’s, lots of it — where his mouth is.

Remember Dennis Tito and Mark Shuttlesworth, the moguls who paid $20 million each for trips to the Russian space station? Space Adventures ( arranged their trips and helped both men get flight-certified.

These days, the forward-looking Anderson is booking $98,000 flights on suborbital space vehicles that don’t even exist yet. More than 100 would-be space tourists have placed $10,000 deposits. Anderson says none of them withdrew after the Columbia tragedy last February. “They realize how important space tourism is to space exploration,” says Anderson. “The best way to make rockets safer and more economical is to fly more of them.”