The United States and Europe are finally, albeit slowly, paving the way for space tourism to become a revolutionary source of new business -- some economists even believe it could save the stagnating world economy.

But many experts are very critical of governments' "monopoly of space" to date, saying that their overarching dominance has harmfully delayed it. Japan, in particular, is often singled out for having top-notch technological credentials . . . but no plans to invest in this new business with astronomical potential.

"Space travel services for the general public have been widely recognized as the major space business of the future. They could grow to more than $100 billion a year and employ millions of people," said Patrick Collins, professor of environmental policy at Azabu University in Kanagawa Prefecture.