Near near future of travel

SpaceShipOne and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic can make us think that, after all, space trips are not out of this world anymore.


Meanwhile, a raft of technical developments is about to revolutionise the way we, mere earth-bound mortals, travel.


In the some UK airports, immigration procedures will invite regular flyers to submit themselves to the iris-recognition technology: their eyes will be photographed so that each time they travel a quick scan will confirm their identity.

Iris recognition may also be used by hotels for regular guests to bypass check-in. The Nine Zero hotel in Boston has pioneered the system in its penthouse suite.

The UK Passport Office will introduce the biometric “ePassport”. An embedded chip will contain personal data, including an electronic image of the face. To ensure that machines can “read” our faces, photographs for the passports must fit exacting criteria, like no smile and plain background.


As there’ll be twice as much people flying by 2020, the hulking twin-deck Airbus A380 will carry up to 840 passengers.

Hotel rooms will boasts holographic screens in your room, with images projected onto panes of clear glass. In Athens, Karim Rashid designed for the Semiramis voice-activated in-room gadgets and he plans to introduce “wands” that guests will use to access their rooms, operate lifts and pay for drinks beside the pool.


Electronic tagging will take off. Delta should be the first airline to attach RFID tags to all bags, allowing mislaid luggage to be traced at the touch of a key.
Later this year, Las Vegas will become the first airport to recognise the tags.

By 2006, e-tickets should have replaced paper tickets and once on board, you will be able to use mobile phones throughout the flight.

Most passengers will have internet access, and live television could be beamed to your seat as the aircraft can pick up signals from the same satellites that beam to millions of homes. You’ll have the option to download “on demand” movies to your laptops and pay with your mobile phones.


Before taking off from the Mojave Desert, in California, the five passengers of Virgin Galactic’s “spaceliners” will do a week’s preflight training. Trips will cost about £115,000, last three hours, and send us in weightless space for just three minutes.

content_image_024[1].jpgSpace Adventures, started taking bookings for suborbital flights as far back as 1997 and promises a five-day residential course, then a 45-minute flight, at an estimated cost of £58,000. Anybody signing up now can expect to fly in about 2010.

Airlines — with your permission – will be able to use wireless location technology to send you a text when you approach the airport, offering you a seat number. If you text back to accept, you will effectively have checked in. The airline will also alert you if you’ve gone to the wrong terminal; and if you’re stuck in traffic and can’t reach the airport in time, it will automatically book you a seat on the next flight.

More details in The Sunday Times.
USA Today has a story on the safety regulations that space tourism will face.