Advertising is set to smash the final frontier with the launch of the world's first space-bound billboard.
Leading companies have been invited to bid upwards of $1m (pounds 625,000) for a prestige advertising site on the side of the Maxus space probe which launches from Sweden in November.
Robert Bryhn, of the Swedish advertising agency which dreamt up the idea, said in London yesterday: "This is a small step for the people behind the project but a giant leap for modern marketing.
"It is extremely rare that the opportunity presents itself for a genuinely ground-breaking advertising medium.
"Its potential in terms of marketing spin-off is enormous. The winning bidder will be moving advertising into a new dimension for the next millennium."
The space probe, a joint effort between the Swedish Space Corporation, Daimler-Benz Aerospace and the European Space Agency, is as high as a five-storey building, will reach reaches 850 kilometres above Earth and will conduct experiments into microgravity.
The advertisement will be in space for about 15 minutes before the part of the rocket on which it appears plunges back to Earth.
Mr Bryhn said it was up to the successful bidder to decide exactly how to gain most benefit from their space advertisement.
"The sky's the limit, there are endless possibilities" he said.
"They can use this to integrate their public relations and marketing effort and they will have exclusive footage of their own advertisement in space."
He also said that the discarded rocket could be used as an unusual centre piece at a corporate headquarters.
Several companies are said to have expressed an interest in the "mind- boggling venture" although Mr Bryhn declined to name names.
He said all serious bids would be considered - even those from firework and condom manufacturers if they were interested.
Although this is claimed to be the first step in a new advertising venture, Sven Grahn of the Swedish Space Corporation said that giant illuminated billboards in space, although technically possible, were unlikely to materialise.
"Astronomers are against the idea because they would mix up billboards with stars," he said.
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