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The Space Elevator

Apparently there is a space elevator conference held every year. I’m pretty sure you’re with me – “Huh?” Well, the idea of an elevator that can lift items and other materials up to space has been a hot topic for decades, according to this article:

“The idea has been around for longer than that by now. This year, Yuri Artsutanov, a Russian engineer born in 1929, attended the conference. While Clarke tends to be the first person people mention when talking about the origin of space elevators, Artsutanov published a paper outlining the concept in 1929. His work went unnoticed outside of Russia, however. Clarke described a space elevator in his 1979 book “Fountain of Paradise” after reading a paper about space elevators published in 1975 by another scientist, Jerome Pearson.”

So what would be the benefit of a space elevator? Firstly, a space elevator would save inordinate amounts of money in a long term schematic of space travel need. It could transport materials, food and other supplies to astronauts who are docked at space stations or in shuttles. Secondly, a space elevator would be very effective at collecting orbiting space trash in nets and cleaning up the junk that space missions have left up there.

However, the article talks about the challenges of finding the technology that would appropriately be able to accomplish this feat. 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 space elevator will cost $1.5 billion in research and development and $18 billion to actually build. Subsequent elevators would cost less, with the second running around $7 billion.”

That’s a high cost for a custom elevator!

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