Burt Rutan, the man who won the X Prize piloting Space Ship One, has predicted that the next 10 years will see an explosion in commercial space flight.
As a surprise visitor to the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, Rutan suggested that commercial orbit trips would be a reality in five years' time and that orbital hotels would be in place within 25 years.
"In the next 10 years, or 14 at most, we will see innovations and breakthroughs like the aeroplane industry at the turn of the century," he told delegates.
"For the past 30 years we've been boring our kids with no progress in space. We cannot afford to bore our children."
Rutan slammed Nasa for a poor safety record, insisting that the private space industry could carry passengers with a safety record equivalent to the airline industry in the 1930s, and better than Nasa was managing today.
The pace of change would inspire a new generation of children to consider the possibilities of space travel.
Craig Barrett, chief executive of Intel, joined Rutan on stage and recounted how Rutan's father had once taken his wife up in a plane for a barnstorming flight when she was a child. The experience had started her interest in the aviation sector.
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