Talking about ‘Space elevator’ wins $900,000 NASA prize – space – 06 November 2009 – New Scientist


 

  

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‘Space elevator’ wins $900,000 NASA prize – space – 06 November 2009 – New Scientist

 

Background and History

Well a long held dream gets one step closer. The idea of a space elevator has been the fodder of Science Fiction for many years.

The history of this concept surprised me when I looked it up on Wikipedia  Space elevator. The originator of the idea was Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in 1895.

Technology Hurdles

There are a number of hurdles to overcome (see Space Elevator Trips could be agonisingly slow). The wining of this NASA prize signals that significant progress has been made in a couple of those technology areas.

  • These technology areas are getting power to the “climbing robot”. This is not as simple as it sounds, you cannot just run a power cord out to the robot, because as it climbs the weight that it would have to drag up would be continuously increasing. The power for the “robot climber” has “beamed” to the robot.
  • Climbing. It may seem a simple process for a human, but for a robot it is not a simple operation. Climbing at a reasonable speed, whilst not destroying the cable which is being climbed is a technically “very hard” problem to resolve.

Conclusion

It would appear that we are a step closer to technically being capable of building a space elevator. There are still numerous technical problems to over come, all of which are “show stoppers” at present.

Mustering the technical capabilities to build a space elevator is only one step on the road to realising this dream. Even if the current technical issues are resolved there are are still a number of “show stoppers” to be overcome. These include:

  • The cost of building on could be another “show stopper”. Today, with a world financial crisis still unwinding, having money to build a space elevator is very much a “pipe dream”.
  • Lifting it all into orbit. The whole elevator cable, and satellite which acts as the terminus to the elevator, will need to be lifted into orbit as part of the assembly process. This will be a massive amount of equipment to be lifted into orbit. How many Ares rockets it would take to get everything up into orbit is an open question.

 

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