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Accelerating into the future

By CNN's Michael Bay
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Posted: September 25, 2006

Whether we are commuting to work, flying to business meetings or watching as human explorers venture out into space, human activity is relentless. In a world that is constantly in motion, what does the future hold?

Will you be able to spend a week aboard a space hotel as inexpensively as you would take a cruise? Will you be able to fly from Tokyo to New York in less than three hours? Will your automobile drive itself?

These are some of the questions that CNN Future Summit: World in Motion will explore when it airs on the CNN International network. Hosted by CNN's Richard Quest and recorded at the Espalande Theatres in Singapore, the second CNN Future Summit program will premier worldwide on November 23, 2006.

Space tourism

Who hasn't looked up at the stars and wondered what it must be like to travel through space? Only a fortunate few have made the trip, and at enormous cost. But in the not too distant future, you may be spending your holiday orbiting over the earth.

Today, space tourism is an extremely expensive proposition. It takes $20 million to secure a trip to the international space station. But that is changing. In just a few years, tourists will be able to visit space for less than a hundredth of the cost of a trip to the international space station.

At the forefront of the space tourism industry is Ansari X-Prize Chairman Peter Diamandis, who helped shepherd in the era of private space flight. A member of the CNN Future Summit Nominating Committee, Diamandis is preparing for the X-Prize cup in October, which this year will include a Lunar Lander challenge.

While space tourism is currently a dream for just a few, many see it as having huge potential. Some, like CNN Future Summit Nominating Committee Member Robert Bigelow, are working on providing space tourists with a destination.

His company, Bigelow Aerospace, is designing space hotels and successfully launched a test module into orbit earlier this year.

The moon, Mars and beyond

While the space tourism industry gears up, national space programs are preparing for the future as well. The nascent Chinese space program is planning an ambitious schedule of launches in coming years.

Russia and China have just this month announced an agreement to cooperate in lunar exploration. In the United States, NASA is in the process of developing its new Orion spacecraft, with the goal of returning to the moon by 2020.

And of course, the real goal is clearly Mars. Walking on the surface of the Red Planet has long been a goal of space enthusiasts and professionals.

While human explorers make their way to the Moon and Mars, robotic missions will continue to spread throughout our solar system. Probes from earth will provide scientific data and images from distant planets, moons, asteroids and comets, and pave the way for human explorers.

In the air

What of the future of aviation? Radical changes are unlikely. CNN Future Summit Nominating Committee member Ian Pearson says bigger airliners are a distinct possibility, as are other changes.

"People [are] talking about things like flying wings," says Pearson, futurist-in-residence for BT.

But other than size, you probably won't notice most changes in new airliners in the near future. They'll likely be built with new composite materials that will make them lighter, stronger and more fuel-efficient.

The result says Quest is that "you are going to see flights become cheaper." If major changes are unlikely for the airliners, they are likely for the companies that fly the big planes.

"The airline industry is going to be completely revolutionized over the next 20 to 30 years," says Quest, who has flown more than 200,000 miles already this year.

Behind the wheel

Automation and robotics will transform the experience of driving.

"I really think the days of people driving their own cars are numbered," says Pearson.

In thirty years computers will be driving the cars and the roadways will be automated as well. Pearson believes the benefits will be enormous.

"We can eliminate most traffic jams, which are mostly caused by bad driving, so we can increase the capacity of the roads."

But more importantly, he says, "We can make it a much safer experience, far fewer people will get killed."

Another member of the CNN Nominating Committee, Sebastian Thrun, is guiding the development of robotic cars. Director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Thrun lead the development of Stanley, a robotic car that won the DARPA Grand Challenge in 2005.

Stanley was named the No.1 Robot of All Time by Wired Magazine in January of 2006 and is now on display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC. Thrun is currently working on a robotic car that could drive you safely from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

The future of transportation will rely heavily on developments on alternative fuel supplies. Dr Hermann Scheer, a member of the German Parliament, and of the CNN Future Summit Nominating Committee, is one of the world's leading authorities on the development and implementation of alternative, renewable sources of power.

The car you drive in the future may well be powered by bio-fuels, or electricity generated by solar or wind power.

In thirty years "we'll be using a combination of electricity, maybe from power stations, nuclear, fusion, whatever," says Pearson. "We'll also be starting to see an awful lot of hydrogen based cars."

One man working toward developing hydrogen-powered cars is Lino Guzzella. Imagine driving from Paris to Moscow, and back again all on one liter of fuel.

While that won't happen with any petroleum based fuel, it could be done with the PAC-Car II designed by a team lead by Guzzella, a member of the CNN Future Summit Nominating Committee and a professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

His ingenious design, powered by a fuel cell, won the Energy Globe Award in November 2005, driving 5,384 kilometers on a liter of hydrogen.


story.nasaorion.jpg

Harking back to the Apollo lunar modules, Orion is NASA's vision for new journies to the moon.

story.stanleycar.jpg

Stanley, Sebastian Thrun's award winning robotic car, could provide the technology for driverless cars.

story.PACcar.jpg

The PAC-Car II developed by Lino Guzzella, powered by hydrogen - the fuel source of the future.

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