If you read any Science Fiction that predate 1950 it was full of first journeys to the moon. These stories almost inevitably showed the first flights been completed either by private indiviudals or congolmerates (The Man Who Sold the Moon for instance).
However when space flight started to take off the costs were huge and it was soon apparent that these would be born by countries and we had the space race of the 1960's culminating in the lunar landing of 1969.
We soon left the moon (although as I understand it the program led to a large number of scientific breakthroughs) and just orbited the earth. In 2003 George W Bush proposed going back to the Moon as a first step to the colonisation of Mars.
Well Barack Obama has now shelved this and wants to use some of the funding to be used to incentivise private companies, to help them bring forward a new generation of launch systems to carry humans to and from space.
As well as being a customer for these rockets and capsules, Nasa would also set and oversee standards, especially in matters of crew safety.
The hope is that the competition seeded by the agency would open up new markets for space activity.
This all seems very familiar to me. Anyone got a railway?