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President Obama didn't design his $3.8 trillion federal budget to appease (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) founder Jeff Bezos, but you can get that he's one of the few who is applauding rather than jeering the president's plan.

Bezos' Blue Origin is one of five companies that will share $50 million in stimulus funds designed to create commercial space vehicles that NASA will use to ferry astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit. The others are Boeing (NYSE: BA  ) , Paragon Space Development, Sierra Nevada Corp., and the United Launch Alliance between Boeing and Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT  ) .

Orbital Sciences (NYSE: ORB  ) and Elon Musk's SpaceX also have contracts with NASA to develop unmanned rockets used for delivering supplies to the International Space Station, MSNBC's Alan Boyle reports.

An out-of-this-world opportunity?
"An enhanced U.S. commercial space industry will create new high-tech jobs and spin off other new businesses that will seek to take advantage of affordable access to space," NASA administrator Charlie Bolden said in announcing the awards.

Forget for a moment that this sounds (a) nothing like a career bureaucrat working at a government agency, and (b) nothing like the NASA that sent 12 Americans to the moon three decades ago. Is it credible to think that commercializing space could lead to jobs and a fresh burst of innovation? Could space become an industry worth investing in?

Certainly Richard Branson thinks so. He unveiled the primary craft for his Virgin Galactic space tourism venture -- a sub-orbital rocket plane called SpaceShipTwo -- at a press event in December.

Bezos has been more secretive about Blue Origin. What reports we have say that the eight-year-old company has been testing rockets that would return vertically to Earth from sub-orbital flights. NASA believes it can do more, and it's awarding Blue Origin $3.7 million of the designated funds to assist with designing an orbital craft.

What about you? Do you believe there's enough demand for a commercial space industry? Or is NASA merely shifting the risk of spacecraft design to private industry? Make your voice heard using the comments box below.

Amazon is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Orbital Sciences is a Rule Breakers recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy is strapped in and ready for lift-off.

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