Friday, October 03, 2008

Going Up? Way Up?

I probably won't live long enough to see it come to fruition but just imagining it is a thrill. Back in 1979, Arthur C. Clarke's novel "The Fountains of Paradise" first brought the idea of a space elevator to us science fiction lovers. Like many of Clarke's visions this one is gaining speed and technology is rapidly making it more than a dream but a reality.

The concept involves hooking a very strong cable to the earth and extending it some 30,000 km out into space and attaching a counterweight. The laws of inertia say that such a construction would remain stable and in a geosynchronous orbit and allow people and material to be moved into space and back with little expenditure of energy.

The problems are getting something strong enough to withstand the tremendous force exerted on it by the counterweights tendency to fly off into space. Now with the development of carbon nanotubes a material of such strength is only years away.

The target is the 2030's so I just might get a chance to see it as I would only be in my late 70's or 80's. Mega cool!

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