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Laser Powered Elevators in Space!

Six months ago, I wrote about a convention that is held every year that has surprised me. Apparently, there is a convention every year to discuss the leaps and bounds (or lack thereof) that scientists and physicists are making towards developing a space elevator. That is simply what it’s called – an elevator that would travel from Earth into outer space. In September, some progress had been made, even if the cost was a problem:

“One technology that will be looked at is nanotube ribbon, which would potentially be strong enough to carry people and withstand atmospheric pressure. One thing in the way of such research is the cost, which may delay the future of a space elevator.”

A recent article in the International Business Times discusses how this nanotube technology may be the most cost effective and reliable way to create a supply line of sorts into outer space without rocketry:

“To change the equation, instead of using rockets, build a transportation infrastructure, a ‘railway line’ into space. A space elevator is the way to provide scalable, inexpensive and reliable access to space, scientists say. The space elevator uses a carbon nanotube ribbon that stretches from the surface of the earth to a counterweight in space. A thin vertical cable (tether) stretches from the earth to orbit, about 100,000 km into space. Elevator cars (climbers) ascend the ribbon carrying cargo and eventually humans to and from space as well as launching spacecraft to distant planets. A combination of sunlight and laser light projected from the ground powers the climbers.”

There are a few elements of this concept that need to be figured out before any kind of real development or construction goes into developing this laser technology. The main problem s finding a strong material capable of carrying things along this elevator line:

“The “Strong Tether Challenge” is a NASA-sponsored contest to create tethers with the highest strength-to-weight ratio and demonstrate a material that is at least 50 percent stronger than the strongest commercially available. NASA’s another challenge – the Power Beaming Challenge – supports the development of far-term space infrastructure concepts such as space elevators and solar power satellites.”

I don’t know when the laser powered space elevators will make a debut, but until then, I’ll be taking good old fashioned commercial elevators or residential elevators.

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