Space Elevator

Space elevator concepts have been around for a long time in various forms. In 1895 Konstantin Tsiolkovsky proposed building a tower that was tall enough to reach into space. In 1959 Yuri Artsutanov pondered using a satellite with a counter-weighted cable to lift objects into orbit. In the 1960s and 70s several more versions were published, but they usually found that no known materials had the strength to support such a cable. Science fiction authors Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, and Kim Stanley Robinson wrote about space elevators.

In most of these ideas, the space tethered end of the cable is attached to some object or platform in a geosynchronous orbit, meaning it is always over the same location on the surface of the planet because the orbital speed matches the rotation of Earth. The theory is that some form of winch or counter weight can lift an object up the cable into space without needing to reach escape velocity as conventional rockets must. Historically, the strength of the cable has been the limiting factor. The advent of carbon nanotubes is finally moving the concept from the realm of science fiction to science reality.

The Space Elevator – From Concept to Reality – [spaceelevator.com]

The Vision

Climbers ascend a ribbon, 100,000 km long, strung between an anchor on Earth and a counterweight in space. Connecting Earth and space in a way never before possible, the space elevator will enable us to inexpensively and completely expand our society into space

Elevator:2010 – The Space Elevator Challenge – [spaceward.org]

The dream of a Space Elevator is a monumental one. A vision that will not only further space exploration and knowledge, but has the potential to shape the existential future of the human race for centuries to come.

For the first time since it was initially conceived, this dream is now within our reach.

With the Elevator:2010 challenge, the Spaceward Foundation has joined the on-going construction effort, adding energy, resources and new initiatives to the ever-growing number of organizations, companies, websites and enthusiasts focused on the technical, political and economic development of the Space Elevator.

Our goal is to generate enough interest in the project, so that within five years the Space Elevator basic building blocks can be demonstrated as feasible, and full-scale design and construction can begin.

And hence our name. Elevator:2010. we promise to get an answer for you by then.

Audacious & Outrageous: Space Elevators – [nasa.gov]

David Smitherman of NASA/Marshall’s Advanced Projects Office has compiled plans for such an elevator that could turn science fiction into reality. His publication, Space Elevators: An Advanced Earth-Space Infrastructure for the New Millennium, is based on findings from a space infrastructure conference held at the Marshall Space Flight Center last year. The workshop included scientists and engineers from government and industry representing various fields such as structures, space tethers, materials, and Earth/space environments.

“This is no longer science fiction,” said Smitherman. “We came out of the workshop saying, ‘We may very well be able to do this.'”

A space elevator is essentially a long cable extending from our planet’s surface into space with its center of mass at geostationary Earth orbit (GEO), 35,786 km in altitude. Electromagnetic vehicles traveling along the cable could serve as a mass transportation system for moving people, payloads, and power between Earth and space.

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