Tue, August 20, 2002

Going up…

Continuing the ongoing quest to find an economical method for moving cargo and eventually passengers to and from space, a private group is planning to construct the space elevator (mirror of the article from space.com). I first read about the space elevator almost twenty years ago in Arthur C. Clarke’s Fountains of Paradise, a story that is fascinating in its sound scientific and technical descriptions. The space elevator is a fairly simple concept: a wire anchored on earth at the equator connects to a platform in space. A lift climbs the wire. The main challenge has been to find a material that is strong enough for the wire. Clarke suggested a cable made from diamonds. It appears that the recently discovered carbon nanotubes have greater strength and will do nicely. So when will the space elevator be constructed? In the late 1970s Clarke was asked the same question. He replied, “The space elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing.” It looks pretty serious to me.

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