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Japanese Begin Working On Space Elevator

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the you-can't-get-there-from-here dept.

Transportation 696

thebryce writes "From cyborg housemaids and waterpowered cars to dog translators and rocket boots, Japanese boffins have racked up plenty of near-misses in the quest to turn science fiction into reality. Now the finest scientific minds of Japan are devoting themselves to cracking the greatest sci-fi vision of all: the space elevator. Man has so far conquered space by painfully and inefficiently blasting himself out of the atmosphere but the 21st century should bring a more leisurely ride to the final frontier. Japan is increasingly confident that its sprawling academic and industrial base can solve those issues, and has even put the astonishingly low price tag of a trillion yen (£5 billion) on building the elevator. Japan is renowned as a global leader in the precision engineering and high-quality material production without which the idea could never be possible."

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696 comments

Space Elevator Music (5, Funny)

mfh (56) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103369)

Just imagine fourteen hours of Japanese elevator music. I couldn't stand that much symphonic David Hasselhoff. And when you get to space and arrive at the Japanese Sky Deck, you can eat very expensive steak, while being entertained by a Max Headroom stylized recreation of David Hasselhoff, and groped by Hentai-motivated space-whores.

Re:Space Elevator Music (5, Funny)

cheetham (247087) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103427)

Could you cope any better with Music for Elevators by Anthony S Head though?

Being groped by space-whores could potentially be worth the wait anyway. ;)

Re:Space Elevator Music (1, Funny)

mlk (18543) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103751)

Hentai. So five year olds. If you are lucky five year olds with big fake plastic breasts.

No thanks.

Re:Space Elevator Music (5, Informative)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103937)

Being groped by space-whores could potentially be worth the wait anyway.

But remember, this is JAPAN we're talking about. They have tentacles.

Still, that amounts to $9.5 Billion USD at the moment. To put it in perspective, we're looking at spending $700B to bail out the banks this week. Over the course of the life of the shuttle, each launch as ended up costing $1.3B. So, for a little over a tenth of the bank buyout, or less than 10 shuttle launches*. Or, if you want to go with incremental costs ($60M), it'd be 158 launches - compared to the 115 launches as of Aug 2006. Still, I hardly think that it'd be fair to compare incremental costs of a dangerous platform with creating a new one with substantially lower incremental costs and hopefully greater safety.

Of course, the article does at least mention a number of issues - we need to industrialize a carbon nanotube production process that makes a cable that'd 4 times as strong as the best lab result to date. There's all sorts of issues with a pod that has to go 22k miles, straight up.

I heard a snippet of a speech by Reagan today about SDI and how we now finally have the missile defense stuff he proposed. They talked about him not realizing the difficulties and state of the art, at which I laughed a bit when, in the speech, he talked about it possibly taking 'into the next century'. Anyways - this topic reminded me of the SDI program - nice goal, but might end up being slightly out of our reach at the moment. Especially for a 'mere' 9.5B. Probably end up being 100B*, and an additional 40 years.

*Still cheap at the price.

Re:Space Elevator Music (5, Funny)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103459)

This is why my preferences are set to view low UID posters at higher point value than others. It is their keen insight from years in the tech arena that keeps me coming back.

I am going to go remove that preference now.

Re:Space Elevator Music (1)

mfh (56) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103735)

This is why my preferences are set to view low UID posters at higher point value than others. It is their keen insight from years in the tech arena that keeps me coming back. I am going to go remove that preference now.

Actually a better approach would be to change your settings to posts marked with Funny mods, since you apparently do not want jokes to negatively impact your sense of humor.

Cue "he bought it on Ebay" responses.

Re:Space Elevator Music (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25103803)

Cue "he bought it on Ebay" responses.

From a little old lady in Pasadena who only used it on Sundays.

Re:Space Elevator Music (4, Funny)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103657)

You think that is bad, just wait until some wieseguy gets on and hits the buttons for every floor.

Re:Space Elevator Music (1)

Sechr Nibw (1278786) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103693)

Or the crazy guy that just needs to go to the next floor to use the bathroom gets on. Can you imagine how much creative art would be on those elevator walls? Yeesh.

Re:Space Elevator Music (1)

MindKata (957167) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103799)

"You think that is bad, just wait until some wieseguy gets on and hits the buttons for every floor."

Err... A "Space Elevator" (clue in the name), only has two buttons?! ... Ground Floor and Space!

Also, while i'm here, from the top text, "Japan are devoting themselves to cracking the greatest sci-fi vision of all"

If an elevator into space, is the limit of their imagination, then I don't hold out much hope, for their choice in lift music!.

Re:Space Elevator Music (1)

MidnightBrewer (97195) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103855)

You're thinking of Europe, not Japan.

Dammit. We really have to get the movie out ASAP (http://www.spindle-movie.com)

Re:Space Elevator Music (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103923)

David Hasselhoff elevator music is Germany, not Japan. Japanese elevators have a cute young woman in a tight uniform who screeches the floor numbers in an inhumanly high voice. Given that the space elevator only has two floors, it doesn't seem like a bad deal.

No I didn't Read TFA (1, Offtopic)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103409)

The concept of a space elevator, of course, requires a very very tall structure, or a pully of sorts from space. That would need to be a really damn strong system, to pull somebody up that high...

In other words, their "space elevator" will probably more closely resember a sleeker rocket/airplane design, and less like an actual elevator...

Re:No I didn't Read TFA (5, Funny)

szo (7842) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103511)

The concept of a space elevator, of course, requires a very very tall structure, or a pully of sorts from space. That would need to be a really damn strong system, to pull somebody up that high...

Yes, you instantly recognized the challenges of the project. Please, come, be a manager on the project!

Re:No I didn't Read TFA (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25103697)

He will have to give up his job with the Irish space agency first though.

Re:No I didn't Read TFA (5, Informative)

interiot (50685) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103569)

Nor did you RTFWikipedia [wikipedia.org]. It's a held up by a weight at geosynchronous orbit. The only problem is that geosynchronous orbit is so far out there [wikipedia.org] (the red dotted line is the International Space Station, the black dotted line is GEO), so it requires a WHOLE LOT of exotic material.

Re:No I didn't Read TFA (3, Informative)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103701)

Technically, a weight in geosynchronous orbit would remain at the same altitude indefinitely with no other forces in effect. A space elevator will require a weight placed in an orbit which will supply tension — otherwise it'd be pulled out of orbit. It would probably be close to geosynchronous, but not quite.

(Actually, I'm not sure we even have a name for such an orbit. It would have to remain stationary above a point on the earth, but it would also have to hold up the cable and the car – in other words, without the tether it'd fly off into an entirely different orbit. Also, whenever the car accelerates it will put an additional tug on the cable – equal and opposite forces, you know. It'll be a tidy little equilibrium problem, and I'm glad I don't have to solve it!)

Re:No I didn't Read TFA (3, Insightful)

tomtomtom777 (1148633) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103787)

Technically, a weight in geosynchronous orbit would remain at the same altitude indefinitely with no other forces in effect. A space elevator will require a weight placed in an orbit which will supply tension â" otherwise it'd be pulled out of orbit. It would probably be close to geosynchronous, but not quite.

Couldn' this be achieved by moving a counter-weight downwards from space while the elevator moves up?

The total force on the weight in orbit would remain constant wouldn't it?

Re:No I didn't Read TFA (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25103995)

That would apply twice the force to the orbiting counterweight as it would have to resist the gravitational pull of both the elevator and the elevator counterweight.

Re:No I didn't Read TFA (4, Interesting)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103605)

The concept of a space elevator, of course, requires a very very tall structure, or a pully of sorts from space. That would need to be a really damn strong system, to pull somebody up that high...

That's probably not how it would be done. You'd have a ribbon hanging down from geostationary to the equator, and your vehicle would actively climb up it, rather than being hauled up. The ribbon still needs to be incredibly strong and light, but it's not the component that's actually doing the work.

Exercise for the reader: work out how you're going to power the climber.

Re:No I didn't Read TFA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25103655)

The space elevator is the stupidest...fucking...idea EVER.

No, really.

Re:No I didn't Read TFA (4, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103739)

Exercise for the reader: work out how you're going to power the climber.

CowboyNeal as a counterweight?

Oh no wapanese seaking (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25103417)

You weeaboos must be loving this!

That's Cheap! (4, Funny)

imstanny (722685) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103421)

$9 Billion Here, $9 Billion there -- pretty soon we'll start talking about real money.

Re:That's Cheap! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25103629)

$9 Billion Here, $9 Billion there -- pretty soon we'll start talking about real money.

That's what she said.

Oh no, wait, that's wrong. What she said was "I'm sorry to tell you this, imstanny, but I have ass herpes."

Which kind of sucks for you, after the balls-deeping and all.

Oh no, wait, that's wrong, too - imstanny doesn't do that to real women. It was his hand that had the herpes. Which still sucks. Not quite as literally, though.

Re:That's Cheap! (3, Interesting)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103925)

If it truly that cheap it is an amazing thing though.

This could be huge.

If the cost to get away from earths gravity, and back into it can be reduced greatly you can suddenly start sending small unmanned craft to do things. It could pay for itself (in savings) very quickly, and perhaps in real money by charging to use it.

As far as major breakthrough public works it is also a bargain. Though at that low a price, and the potential to make money on satellite launches, it almost looks like a company should be starting it anyway.

Just as a subnote... (2, Interesting)

east coast (590680) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103429)

A trillion yen is about 9.5 billion USD or roughly 6.5 billion Euros. That sounds like a bargin to me.

Re:Just as a subnote... (4, Informative)

Free the Cowards (1280296) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103631)

And as a sub-subnote, this is approximately the cost of developing a complete conventional man-rated rocket launch system. I'm skeptical of the quoted price tag, but it would be extremely cheap if it could be achieved.

Re:Just as a subnote... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25103883)

would that work to finance the japanes space elevator:

1- take a subprime loan from a US bank
2- file for banckruptcy
3- let US treasury buy the debt back and cancel it
4- Profit !

I mean with that they could spend as much as 700 billions !

WTF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25103441)

"The greatest sci-fi vision ..." "Man has so far conquered space by ..." No to both. A space elevator is not the greatest "sci-fi" vision, nor has man "conquered space."

I love it... (0)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103465)

TFC felt it necessary to convert Japanese Yen into GBP. Thanks so much.

Re:I love it... (1)

Azaril (1046456) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103991)

Well in fairness it has been directly ripped from Britain's oldest-running newspaper. They're not likely to want to include a USD conversion are they?

call me when they have something (2, Insightful)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103477)

Absent any stunning advances in material sciences, the space elevator is still in pipe dream territory along with FTL drives, AI, androids indistinguishable from people, and world peace.

This is just a Popular Science article, i.e. "hey wouldn't it be neat if but it ain't happening so we're really just jerking your chain."

Re:call me when they have something (5, Interesting)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103587)

Absent any stunning advances in material sciences,

The TFA states that carbon nanotubes would require a 4x increase in strength compared to present-day materials, and that the past 5 years of research have already brought about a 100-fold improvement ... sounds to me like many stunning advances have already happened and we're well on track to fully-stunned status.

This is just a Popular Science article, i.e. "hey wouldn't it be neat if but it ain't happening so we're really just jerking your chain."

"Japan is hosting an international conference in November to draw up a timetable for the machine."

Re:call me when they have something (1)

Kagura (843695) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103763)

It's unfortunate that for a planet with the properties of the earth, theoretical material limits can just barely accommodate a working space elevator, maybe.

Re:call me when they have something (3, Insightful)

Fanro (130986) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103807)

The TFA states that carbon nanotubes would require a 4x increase in strength compared to present-day materials, and that the past 5 years of research have already brought about a 100-fold improvement ... sounds to me like many stunning advances have already happened and we're well on track to fully-stunned status.

I thought a millionfold increase in length was also required?

Does not matter how strong they are if you cannot make them long enough.

Re:call me when they have something (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25103891)

I got an email earlier today guaranteeing a gain of 1-3 inches in length. It's a start.

Re:call me when they have something (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25103919)

"Japan is hosting an international conference in November to draw up a timetable for the machine."

Ahhh, a timetable. Next thing you know they'll be forming a committee.

Yep, they're just making progress hand over fist.

Re:call me when they have something (2, Insightful)

Diamo (1364811) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103595)

From TFA:

"Japan is hosting an international conference in November to draw up a timetable for the machine."

and a favorite quote of mine:

"We're all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."

-Oscar Wilde

Re:call me when they have something (1)

marco.antonio.costa (937534) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103609)

Oh c'mon, be fair.

It IS outlandish, but not NEARLY as so as FTL travel. I think we can pull it off, but we still need a lot of green tubes.

Re:call me when they have something (5, Informative)

Free the Cowards (1280296) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103707)

Well, no. Modern materials are within a factor of 3 or so of what's required for a space elevator, and known materials with sufficient theoretical strength exist, it just needs to be figured out how to build them. It would not be surprising to have those materials move from theory to reality within a decade or so.

AI, human-indistinguishable androids, and world peace, on the other hand, are not things that people have any idea how to achieve. And FTL drives are prohibited by currently accepted physical theory. To compare a space elevator to any of those is either deliberately being stupid, or a result of profound ignorance about either space elevators or all the other things you mentioned.

A space elevator is certainly not going to be as easy as a Popular Science article makes it sound. But on the other hand it's not anywhere near as difficult as the pipe dreams you named.

SKYHOOK! (2, Funny)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103483)

I can't tell you how many times I've needed one of those.

Re:SKYHOOK! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25103607)

Got a lot of Wookie slaves you need to get in to orbit huh?

Captcha was "rebels". :)

if anyone can do it, Japan can... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25103491)

Don't look at the USA for innovation in any other area than "security". The USA will instead have all it's income tied up for the next several decades on "Homeland Security (Theater)" to spy on it's own citizens and possibly bailing out the rest of the commercial companies "too big to fail".

Then Japan can lease it to us for top dollar.

Ladder to heaven (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25103495)

Sounds a lot like when the Japanese tried to build a ladder to heaven (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Ladder_to_Heaven). They got there before the Yanks as well!

Equal and opposite? (2, Insightful)

odin84gk (1162545) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103505)

Some things I know for sure:

1.) Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

2.) Metal is stronger when being pulled then pushed.

3.) If we make a space elevator, the elevator will need to move vertically, which will cause downward force. This will either be absorbed by the bottom (very unlikely), the top (Seems possible, but improbable since the top will need fuel to pull the item upward), or using boosters (not very different from the current method).

Is there an advantage that I am not seeing? Every method requires fuel unless all of the weight is absorbed by the bottom, which is unlikely if they use metal.

Re:Equal and opposite? (5, Informative)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103675)

You have an anchor at the top of the ribbon. It needs to be very massive compared to the payload - so we need a large space station, or a small captured asteroid. You have it in an orbit that's slightly above geostationary, so that it tends to drift into a higher orbit and is kept in place by tension in the ribbon. That way, the top is pulling upwards naturally, and the payload doesn't drag the whole structure down.

Engineering efficiency (4, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103679)

Without venturing to comment on whether a space elevator is actually possible, the main reason is simple efficiency. Rockets are incredibly inefficient as power sources in any case, but then in addition you have to use almost all the energy produced to lift the fuel some part of the way. Then, having added all that potential energy to your Shuttle or whatever, on the way down you turn it all into heating the air. The result is huge amounts of fuel to get a very small payload into orbit.

A practical space elevator could use vehicles powered by electric motors, which would get about 70-80% efficiency. On the way down, the motors could be used as generators, getting back probably around 30-50% of the original energy supplied. The total energy consumption might only be a percent or so of that needed for a rocket. The design of the cable with electrical conductors on either side reaching all the way up to geostationary orbit is, of course, left as an exercise to the reader.

Re:Equal and opposite? (1)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103811)

Conservation of energy still applies, but boosting something to 'orbit' is horrendously inefficient - think if you will, how big the sattelite is that the shuttle launches, compared to the total of 'stuff' that leaves the earth?

The idea of a space elevator is that you just pay the 'energy debt' of the thing you're orbiting, and not the fuel tanks, the boosters, the delivery vehicle and the astronauts - because they return to earth afterwards. And they probably have less to worry about in terms of atmospheric drag, too, and can probably do quite a lot with a very efficient solar powered ion drive to maintain position.

You're correct in thinking that you can't really violate conservation of energy, but you can make the process of 'lifting' stuff into orbit a lot less wasteful than it currently is.

For bonus points, you _may_ be able to use the earth to 'push against', but you're entirely correct when you say that the materials we have at the moment have a hard time with that. But it's an engineering problem, rather than a physics one.

Re:Equal and opposite? (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103847)

If I'm not mistaken the only feasible plan is using some kind of carbon nanotube fibre as the cable. It'd be useless under compression, so it'd be pure tension. And yeah, I see the same problem as you see [slashdot.org]... I suppose brighter minds than myself will think of solutions to it, though.

Re:Equal and opposite? (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103885)

There are a couple of things you are not seeing:

In all recent proposals the counterweight is beyond the geostationary orbit so the cable is under tension.

Provided the tether stays stationary the only fuel needed is to move the object. Think of this, does your house need fuel to absorb the downward force when you go upstairs? The only fuel comes from your muscles. Similarly a powered elevator car will be able to climb the space elevator.

Re:Equal and opposite? (5, Informative)

icebrain (944107) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103909)

You're thinking of making a big tower (like a really large skyscraper). That wouldn't work. You have to approach the problem differently.

A simplified explanation of a space elevator is to take a really long, really strong cable (nanotubes), hang a weight on the end (more cable, an asteroid, lots of metal, etc), and anchor it on the equator. The weight goes out beyond geostationary orbit, and the tension of your cable pulls in on the counterweight to keep it from flying away. The tension keeps your cable taut. You can then run "cars" or "trains" up and down the cable on motorized wheels, most likely with electric power (solar, beamed microwave, or conducted through the cable). Your car can travel nice and slow, and be more efficient than a rocket.

If this doesn't make sense, imagine tying a weight to the end of a string, holding on to the other end, and spinning in circles. The weight will be held out at the end of the string and appear stationary relative to (since you're spinning too). Now put a caterpillar on that string that walks to the counterweight and back to you.

In short, the advantage is that you can use electrical power (which you don't have to carry with you) converted to direct mechanical energy to climb into orbit, instead of expelling fuel (less efficient) that you do have to carry with you. Your vehicle ("car") structure is simpler, more robust, and cheaper than a rocket. The elevator itself would be quite expensive, and requires some advances in materials science, but isn't physically impossible.

Invention needed! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25103507)

Japan has always been able to make things better. But a space elevator will take invention, not improvement on existing ideas. They need an injection of protoculture to get some out of the box thinking going on.

Reminds me of a quote... (5, Informative)

icebrain (944107) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103513)

"The first space elevator will be built about fify years after everyone stops laughing."

-Arthur C. Clarke

Not the greatest sci-fi vision of all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25103521)

Well it isn't, it had to be said. Let's try to be accurate here people, we're meant to geeks. Let's not limit human possibility so much.

OMG They killed Kenny (2, Funny)

bembleton (589035) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103535)

The Japanese just want to be the first to build a ladder to Heaven.

Re:OMG They killed Kenny (0, Offtopic)

houghi (78078) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103663)

Ladder?

Theres a lady whos sure
All that glitters is gold
And shes buying a stairway to heaven.
When she gets there she knows
If the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for.
Ooh, ooh, and shes buying a stairway to heaven.

Theres a sign on the wall
But she wants to be sure
cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.
In a tree by the brook
Theres a songbird who sings,
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven.
Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it makes me wonder.

Theres a feeling I get
When I look to the west,
And my spirit is crying for leaving.
In my thoughts I have seen
Rings of smoke through the trees,
And the voices of those who standing looking.
Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it really makes me wonder.

And its whispered that soon
If we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason.
And a new day will dawn
For those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter.

If theres a bustle in your hedgerow
Dont be alarmed now,
Its just a spring clean for the may queen.
Yes, there are two paths you can go by
But in the long run
Theres still time to change the road youre on.
And it makes me wonder.

Your head is humming and it wont go
In case you dont know,
The pipers calling you to join him,
Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow,
And did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind.

And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul.
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How evrything still turns to gold.
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last.
When all are one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll.

And shes buying a stairway to heaven.

Re:OMG They killed Kenny (1)

imnotbutyouare (874216) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103685)

Actually wasn't that the Babylonians with the tower of Babel. and look what happened there. God warned about this sort of thing, twin towers etc, if people had just listened to him in the first place .... :))

In English dollars... (1)

Rurik (113882) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103545)

1 Trillion yen (1,000,000,000,000.00) = £5,094,913,016.76 = $9,384,938,337.77 ($9.3 billion).

Now, let's start the flame fest of comparing this low value to other multi-billion dollar "investments" the US Government has made...

Re:In English dollars... (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103917)

just convince them that you can drop bombs off the elevator onto Arab countries and they'd pay for it in an instant.

Re:In English dollars... (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103969)

TFS said it was £5 billion! You mean they gave an approximation without saying it was only approximately £5 billion? And they didn't even round to the nearest 1%?! They should have said:

a price tag of ¥1 trillion (about £5,09 billion)

Geez.

cable/ribbon strength (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25103561)

I am curious if they will be able to construct a cable/ribbon that's strong enough. The article refers to nanotube technology that should bring 180 times the tensil strength of steel. Even so, having a cable segment carrying 36000km of cable below it (which becomes lighter with height, but still), and the payload as well, that's far from trivial. To compare with nanotubes, this is similar to use a steel cable that can support 200 km of cable and payload hanging below it. I hope they succeed at it but these are incredible numbers.

Stuck in space - rescue plan? (1, Redundant)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103593)

Supposed you were to get stuck near the very top in space? Who is going to come and rescue you? Ultra-Man? Optimus Prime? Godzilla?

It certainly isn't going to be Otis or the Fire Department.

Re:Stuck in space - rescue plan? (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103683)

Who cares?

As long as the risk of failure can be made fairly low, for the opportunity to use this thing I (and many other people) would be comfortable with a contingency plan of "If it gets stuck you're going to have to jump".

Not everything needs to be 100% safe. Some things less so than others.

Re:Stuck in space - rescue plan? (1)

Sciros (986030) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103819)

Probably a Veritech pilot (from Macross). Makes the most sense to me....

Re:Stuck in space - rescue plan? (1)

krystar (608153) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103831)

should have read Foutains of Paradise. you build two elevators at once. it's called redundancy :P

Re:Stuck in space - rescue plan? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25104015)

Unless the actual structure breaks, in which case people may have other things to worry about depending on the design, getting down need not be a huge problem. Harness, govenor, liftshaft rail, start walking after a few km gravity kicks in and you are home in a few hours.

Greatest sci-fi vision? (1)

Chas (5144) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103625)

I would have thought achieving immortality? Transluminal flight? Infinite power?

A space elevator has always been a distinct possibility. Our materials engineering just needed to play catch-up to our construction abilities.

No kidding. Great, but not greatest. (2, Insightful)

EWAdams (953502) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103959)

Greatest, in terms of biggest, would have to be a Dyson sphere. I see the Japanese haven't started on THAT one yet.

Curious (3, Interesting)

lampsie (830980) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103627)

My only knowledge of space elevators is probably what I've read on Slashdot and the occasional pop article, so for now it seems like a pipe dream - however, its a pipe dream that seems likely to come true at some point. Most articles fail to get passed the concept however, so I have some questions:

1) How would one get the opposite end of the "tether" into space after its been bolted to the Earth?
2) What kind of payloads are the likely going to be capable of carrying?
3) Will the tether and the space-end of the tether need regular augmentations? (e.g. alignment, raising, maintenance etc)
Thanks :) lampsie

a disaster waiting to happen (3, Insightful)

loafula (1080631) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103677)

maintaining geosynchronous orbit while tethered to the ground is not a good idea. there are so many factors that could turn a space elevator into a complete disaster. a cat-4 or 5 hurricane could potentially put so much drag onto the cable that the whole thing tumbles to earth. an earthquake could yank it out of orbit. tidal pulls from the moon could rip it from the ground. lightning damage. i'd love to see this become a reality, but i just dont think that will happen.

Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25103703)

Only Five Billion? How long till Google buys one and starts launching communications satellites en masse?

5-9 Billion? It's not the materials, it's the mass (1)

starglider29a (719559) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103713)

Nothing the Japanese, the Protectors or the Puppeteers can do in materials will be able to succeed until they can counterbalance it. That involves mass. Clarke used an asteroid, "moved" into position.

I'm not saying it can't be done (in this post;-). I'm saying it can't be done for 10 Bills.

Ok, maybe if they devise a way to collect all of the space junk into a blob. Maybe launch a 100m blob of chewing gum against the orbital grain to absorb the detritus to get things started.

Largest is the nanotube problem... (4, Interesting)

distantbody (852269) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103719)

...No space elevator is going anywhere without the necessary nanotube manufacturing breakthrough, and that includes the Japanese.

Pfft. I've got all the other wonders. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25103721)

Good thing I started Colossus last turn.

This is interesting news, BUT! (1)

Killjoy_NL (719667) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103725)

It would have been great if the fracking summary wasn't copy-pasted from the article.
I mean, how difficult is it to write a short blurb with a link in it ?

Re:This is interesting news, BUT! (1)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103861)

Are you kidding? This is slashdot. Usually a blurb contans:

1. Lots of inaccurate information from someone who didnt bother to read the article.

2. Lots of needless editorializing, if outright trolling.

3. A link or two to obvious resources like wikipedia or google news.

4. An unneeded hypothtical question.

5. A link to some blog to up ad impressions.

  A copy and paste blurb is most welcome.

The Web Between Worlds (1)

StarEmperor (209983) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103737)

Arthur Clarke always gets credit for the concept, but Charles Sheffield wrote The Web Between Worlds the same year (1979). I haven't read Clarke's book, but TWbW is a pretty engaging novel of how such a space elevator might be built.

sri lanka (1)

krystar (608153) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103753)

so when did the Japanese government get permission to use the Sri Lanka lands for the anchor of the Space Elevator. Don't we need to develop carbon nanotubes first? or are we going to use Buckminsterfullerene?

Start from orbit. (2, Interesting)

B5_geek (638928) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103793)

This was an idea that I had a very long tie ago when I was still a teenager (before I had ever heard of space elevators). Lets imagine you had a geostationary satellite in orbit above your construction site. That satellite then lowers a cable into the atmosphere (due to it being geostationary there should be minimal re-entry friction) your main concern would be dealing with the winds on a 100km long cable dangling in the air. Once you have connected the cable to the land, fire some booster rockets on the satellite to get it into the desired orbit (say L1), you could even have the shuttle attach some larger equipment to it to increase it's mass.

With an increase in mass and the longer distance from the planet, centrifugal force should keep the cable taut. You now can start having things 'climb' the cable to build a larger platform.

Why wouldn't this work?

Bah... (5, Funny)

Lonedar (897073) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103797)

They just saw that the EU completed the LHC world wonder so they are building a Space Elevator wonder to prevent a cultural victory.

I'll stick with PbZep (4, Funny)

Digitus1337 (671442) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103805)

I'm always afraid of getting stuck halfway up on a space elevator (one bustle in your hedgerow and the whole thing gets jammed up). I'll just take a Stairway to Heaven, there's a lady I've heard good things about that is buying one.

How they are going to build it. (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103871)

I'd imagine some sorta pulley system with a giant robot piloted by an angsty teenager to pull the elevator along using his massive human shaped war machine robot.

Either that or or they are going to renew Gundam 00, or they want to build the system depicted in Gundam 00, which would be awesome, and it would solve our energy problems.

why not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25103935)

Sure they might not make it, but the attempt will surely breed at least some new innovation. You don't always have to succeed to win.

Missing from the article: (5, Funny)

paniq (833972) | more than 5 years ago | (#25103953)

The elevators traveling speed will be measured in GFIp/t ("Girl from Ipanema" plays per transport).

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