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.


10 Responses to A Long Ride with Elevator Music

  1. As has been discussed before though, it requires a SHITLOAD of power, increasing exponentially the higher it goes. I felt this effect the other day, taking a sofa up some stairs ;)

    That being said, I'd like to just send our nuclear waste into the sun, that'd be great

  2. gotta try everything once right?

    sending our waste into the sun would be great. and yeah i know it's the SUN and all, but hopefully we don't somehow screw up the sun by through all kinds of shit at it.

  3. They'd be a never ending procession of used nappies and black bin bags floating towards the sun…..at least we won't end up like Wall-e

  4. Are we talking about a Skyhook (at the equator and reaching up to GEO) or a space fountain (can be placed anywhere and goes up to LEO)?

    Both have different problems, the most obvious is power and material, but a space fountain would need a only a large start up amount of energy to get something going to keep it straight, such as a continuous stream of pellets shot up and down the fountain.

  5. Neat idea, though we would be missing the weighlessness experience, due to it not being orbital. OTOH, the view from 100 miles up would be awesome. They could have an observation deck at the top and sell tacky souvenirs and over-priced, mediocre food. Maybe some big investment house or law firm would get office space on the 99,999th floor. They're probably building this in Dubai as we speak.

  6. I was very much the kid who wanted to go into space. In fact, it was that desire which drove me into math and science. I now doubt that will ever happen, but WOW, how cool with that be!!!

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