The hardest part about traveling to space is getting up out of Earth’s gravity well. Once you get past the gravity well, space is yours to travel. The way we travel to space today is somewhat a primitive technology that will never allow for cheap passage to space. If a similar system to an elevator climbing up a wire was created, easy space access could be possible.
Using rockets to get astronauts to space is an effective way to reach space, however it is extremely expensive. If that is our only method of space travel, only the rich would ever be able to afford it. If we want space travel to become an everyday and inexpensive thing, other methods must be explored.
One idea is to deliver an asteroid into Earth’s orbit and drop a wire down from it. Then you could climb the wire just like an elevator does inside a building. This would be cheap, efficient, and would bring the cost of getting to space down.
The problem with this idea has always been whether or not we have the material to make such a wire. Nothing we currently have is strong enough to not break simply under its own weight. One theory is that we could use carbon nanotubes to do it. No one knew how to make wire from carbon nanotubes, until now:
“An international team of scientists has successfully found a way to spin tens of millions of carbon nanotubes into a flexible conductive thread that’s a quarter of the thickness of human hair.
“We finally have a nanotube fiber with properties that don’t exist in any other material,” said lead researcher Matteo Pasquali of Rice University. “It looks like black cotton thread but behaves like both metal wires and strong carbon fibers.”
The thread has ten times the tensile strength of steel and is as conductive as copper, but is flexible enough to be wound around a spool or woven.”
If you can wind or weave the material, you can most certainly spin it into a cable. Creating a wire from a carbon nanotube could be the last piece of the puzzle needed to build a space elevator. While it would be an engineering challenge to build the wire, assuming this cable would be strong enough, there is no reason why we couldn’t build it. If we can get past the first 50 miles off the planet, there are limitless possibilities in space for us.