You should be able to find the October issue of Popular Science on stands starting around now. I have a one-pager about Bigelow Aerospace’s Fly Your Stuff program on page 48 and a three-pager about the Lunar Lander Challenge beginning on page 38. Sorry, no links available to the articles yet.

I mention the Bigelow piece first because I’m most proud of it. Robert Bigelow is running an honest-to-God space program, with actual hardware now in orbit, and for all the right reasons.

He wants to turn a profit, sure, by building orbiting space complexes for lease to anyone who can afford it. But he also wants to inspire as many people as he can to look up, as in beyond our current political and environmental problems, to consider, even for a moment, that we human beings are capable of fantastic things, if only we put our differences aside and work together.

In one little step along the way, he’s opened the cargo manifest of his next orbiting test vehicle, currently slated for a January launch, to anyone with a spare $295. That price gets you a photograph or golf ball-sized object floating around on camera in the Genesis II, which is a 1/3-scale model of the habitable modules that Bigelow plans to launch by 2012. Your money back if you don’t see yourself or your keepsake in space via Bigelow’s website within 90 days of launch.

I think that’s very cool, for two reasons. One, for a relatively small amount you can help support the emerging commercial space industry by buying a real service, and two, it’ll give ordinary people a legitimate sense of ownership in a successful space venture.