Space Elevator, Going Up
Ever ridden in one of those elevators where a softly feminine, robotic voice alerts you to what floor you're going to next? Yeah, me neither. But if I had, wouldn't it be cool if the voice said this instead: Going up. Next floor, outer space.
Well, that dream may be closer than I think, as long as I manage to make it to my 70th birthday.
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According to The Daily Yomiuri, Tokyo construction company, Obayashi Corporation, hopes to erect a space elevator by 2050. As a doff of the cap to our British readers, the space lift would ferry passengers and cargo along a carbon nanotube ribbon from a terrestrial terminal to a spaceport nearly a quarter of the way to the moon.
How is this possible? Well, on paper, here's what's on tap:
At the end of a 59,652-mile-long, carbon-nanotube cable, there would be a counterweight floating in space and anchoring the assembly connected to the ground terminal. Passengers would travel from terra firma to a spaceport research center equipped with residential facilities located 22,369 miles above the Earth's surface.
Interested in beaming yourself up? Well, make sure you pack your toothbrush and an few changes of clothes because even though the elevator will zoom up the ribbon at 124 miles per hour, it's still going to take a week to get there. Those who have ever undertaken a cross-country trip on a Greyhound bus know how pleasant a journey that can be.
Obayashi is keeping mum about the estimated cost of the project, but once it's off the ground, the company hopes to shuttle 30 passengers at a time along the cable, potentially with magnetic linear motors.
No location has been revealed yet, but because the assembly would rely on centrifugal force to keep the ribbon taut, the base station needs to be located near the equator. Here's looking at you, Pontianak, Indonesia.
An ambitious project indeed, sure to have many ups and downs.
Credit: NASA (top); Obayashi Corp. (left)