SAN FRANCISCO--In a generation, outer space is going to look sort of like Orlando, if space pioneer Burt Rutan is right.
Speaking at the Intel Developer Forum here, Rutan said commercial space flights that will let ordinary individuals go into outer space will start to occur in about 12 years, with resorts showing up in about 25 years.
So far, only 455 people have orbited in space, said Rutan, who designed SpaceShipOne, the craft that won the $10 million Ansari X Prize for private space travel.
Intel CEO Craig Barrett brought Rutan onstage during a keynote speech on the opening day of the three-day conference.
"Twelve to 15 years from now (commercial space trips) will be in the $30,000 to $40,000 area to go outside the atmosphere," Rutan said. "We're going to have orbiting resort hotels in 25 years."
By comparison, Richard Branson's space tourism venture, Virgin Galactic, is charging would-be weekend astronauts approximately $190,000 for planned two-hour flights, of which about five minutes would be spent in weightless conditions.
A key factor in this will be improved safety. In a few years, early space flight companies will be able to offer the safety that 1930s airline companies provided, which is "about 100 times safer than the U.S. and the Russians offered in the first three decades of space travel," Rutan said.
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ShipOne repeats its feat
Safe re-entry, in fact, was one of the aspects of Rutan's SpaceShipOne craft that could help pave the way toward commercial space flights. The flight of the craft last year also could inspire a new generation of aeronautics engineers. Howard Hughes, Werner Von Braun and others were children when the early aeronautical achievements took place from 1908 to 1912, Rutan noted.
Until recently, NASA and its glacial pace took much of the romance and excitement out of space travel, he said.
"In the last 30 years, we have bored our kids with the space program," Rutan said.