A Long Ride with Elevator Music

by Casey Lynn
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

The idea of a space elevator isn’t exactly a new one, but CNN just published an article speculating that it may happen within our lifetimes. Apparently this “new space race” is being measured in stories rather than miles–one hundred thousand of them. Hundreds of engineers from all over the world are meeting at a conference in November to brainstorm the problem.

How’s it coming? Well, they apparently have the right material, carbon nanotube, about 180 times stronger than steel cable. But presently the technology isn’t there to make it quite strong enough or long enough for that journey into space. However, some scientists are particularly optimistic. The Japanese think they’ll have an elevator under construction by 2030.

Of course there are a wide range of potential uses for such a thing if it ever exists. Disposing of nuclear waste, placing solar panels, transporting objects… or, of course, people. You may have heard that Charles Simonyi, the former Microsoft employee who oversaw the development of Word and Excel, is planning his second trip into space. His first trip last Spring, in which he orbited the Earth for 12 days, cost $20 million.

So here’s something to think about. If there were a space elevator, or any kind of technology that would make a short trip into space easier and more economical (if the cost were more like, say, a very pricey vacation rather than more money than you’ll probably ever see in your lifetime), is that a trip you’d want to take? If so, how much would you be willing to spend? I was never one of those kids who dreamed of being an astronaut… but I do admit that the science fiction geek in me would love an opportunity to see the stars up close, even if I wouldn’t be willing to break the bank for it.

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