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Space Elevator Going Up

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the penthouse-suite dept.

Space 684

Adlopa writes "The Guardian newspaper reports on scientists' efforts to realise the space elevator, as first described by Arthur C Clarke in his 1979 novel 'Fountains of Paradise'. Advances in materials science mean that 'a cable reaching up as far as 100,000km from the surface of the Earth' is no longer an impossibility and 70 scientists and engineers are discussing the idea at a conference in Santa Fe today."

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684 comments

what i really want to know is... (5, Funny)

knowles420 (589383) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952000)

will it have a 13th floor?

Re:what i really want to know is... (-1, Flamebait)

gustgr (695173) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952054)

Well, more 200,000 Km it would have a 3rd floor at least [Moon] but I think that would be dangerous, you know, the Al Qaeda could stole or destroy the moon ...

Seems like (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952002)

Any excuse to hang out in Santa Fe is a good one.

The Fountains of Paradise (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952004)

"Published in 1953, 1952, and 1979, respectively, this trio of novels follow Clarke's recurring theme of humans thrusting themselves into space and then not necessarily liking what they find. The religious images that run throughout Clarke's work also are present here." - Amazon [amazon.com]

--
Your Friendly Neighborhood Product Placement Troll

AMAZON TROLL (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952057)

hey stupid person you have posted (as an Anonymous Coward) several links to books on amazon.com with you as a refferer have you thought about getting a job ? or maybe i should just report you as a spammer to amazon my guess is your just a dumb american kid who doesnt know any better

GAY NIGGERS SUCK COCK (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952074)

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1st lift (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952010)

Uhh.. I still do not think this is a wise idea. It will be a target.

Kind of scary. (0, Redundant)

grub (11606) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952012)


Imagine a 100,000 km cable falling to earth.. I wouldn't want to be under it.

Re:Kind of scary. (0)

knowles420 (589383) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952023)

Imagine a 100,000 km cable falling to earth.. I wouldn't want to be under it. imagine falling 100,000 km to earth, while you're at it. ick.

Re:Kind of scary. (4, Insightful)

superdan2k (135614) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952042)

Imagine the fact that the tip would accelerate as it fell...most of it would end up burning up in the atmosphere. Also imagine how little of the earth's land area lies along the equator. Not much. It might cause some localized devastation, but it's not a world-breaker.

Re:Kind of scary. (4, Funny)

fredrikj (629833) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952061)

Imagine the fact that the tip would accelerate as it fell...most of it would end up burning up in the atmosphere.

That's true, the risk of the thing falling down and crushing people is almost zero. But there is another problem: if it burns, will the resulting particles be hazardous for us to inhale? There's research going on about that.

Re:Kind of scary. (5, Insightful)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952152)

But there is another problem: if it burns, will the resulting particles be hazardous for us to inhale?

Carbon nanotubes are primarily, well, carbon. Burning up would create the same stuff that charcoal makes, CO2. Potentially less toxic than second hand cigarette smoke. There may be some other chemicals in there, but the whole idea is to make the tube out of a single material, the nanotubes, to make it strong. So, yes, research is good, but toxicity is probably not the biggest issue.

Re:Kind of scary. (1)

wulfhound (614369) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952154)

Probably. Then again, the atmospheric pollution expelled by a typical rocket launch is also hazardous for us to inhale. Very. Not to mention the crud emitted when a satellite (or, worse yet, a Space Shuttle) burns up.

Fortunately, rocket launches and re-entries are a relatively rare event, and most of their nastiness is dumped high enough in the atmosphere that it gets dispersed well before anyone breathes it in. The same would be true of burning-up bits of elevator.

Re:Kind of scary. (3, Funny)

jackb_guppy (204733) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952066)

But But But

When a cable under stress breaks it can cut right thought metal...

When this long whip breaks, it will slice right thought the earth!!

Re:Kind of scary. (4, Insightful)

superdan2k (135614) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952105)

I swear to god, if my eyes roll any harder, they're going to fall out of my head.

It's not like we're talking about a high tension cable here. The cable's structure will be balanced by gravity -- the center of gravity will rest at the geosynchronous point, meaning that the bottom half will be falling toward Earth while the top half will be moving away at an equal rate. (Disclaimer: my degree is in English and I'm relying on this thing called "high school physics class"...)

Really, it depends on where the cable snapped and what the nature of the accident was...

Re:Kind of scary. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952071)

Yeah, and since the good ole USA is not suspect to "some localized devastation" it's not a world-breaker?

This is a fucking insane idea for following reasons:

a) The immense danger if it falls down.
b) It's an extreme threat to all airborne traffic.
c) It does not advance space travel. We already can get to the low orbit safely and at a reasonable cost (I'm not talking about the shuttle) and build stuff there. What we need now is the political will to go back to Moon, build a base there and go for Mars and the outer planets. Manned. Robots are good for science but they'll never get us off the planet.

Re:Kind of (not so) scary. (1)

inertia@yahoo.com (156602) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952064)

IANAUE (I Am Not An Uber Engineer), but I should hope that they'd design the thing to have a way to eject the whole thing away from earth. If there was some problem, they could detonate explosives at the base, and the whole thing would centrifugally fly away from earth rather than fall back down.

Re:Kind of (not so) scary. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952106)

Finally, someone with a decent idea rather than a bunch a yahoos playing chicken little. "Space is falling! Space is falling!" Christ.

Re:Kind of scary. (2, Insightful)

register_ax (695577) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952078)

Imagine a 100,000 km cable falling to earth.. I wouldn't want to be under it.

I don't mean to sound too condescending, but really, the centrifugal force of earth's rotation makes that impossible. I would have been humoured if you would have stated imagine a 100,000 km cable being hurtled at the moon when I move there. For it to fall to earth would mean the earth would stop spinning...highly unlikely given what we know.

You might be able to argue that inertia from the atmosphere would allow it to operate like a whip, but even that is farfetched. I doubt they would implement such a system without properly addressing such an issue.

Be more afraid of Near [nasa.gov] Earth [nearearthobjects.co.uk] Objects [harvard.edu]. Of course those things fall from roughly 4.7E17 km. Why the hell don't people imagine that?

Re:Kind of scary. (1)

lylum (659581) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952100)

>I doubt they would implement such a system without properly addressing such an issue.

But you have listened to the new about NASA during the last few months?
I wouldn't trust them to change a light bulb anymore ;)

Re:Kind of scary. (1)

grub (11606) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952102)


If the cable broke, wouldn't the end attached to Earth fall back? The center of gravity has been changed and the far tip of the broken end wouldn't be moving fast enough to provide the force needed to keep the cable pulled in place.

Re:Kind of scary. (3, Informative)

merlin_jim (302773) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952109)

Imagine a 100,000 km cable falling to earth.. I wouldn't want to be under it.

The cable is actually pulling up. Catastrophic failure at any point along the cable results in it leaving earth.

Basically, you put the center of gravity of the cable right at geosynchronous orbit (ideally you want it to be a little higher than that)

If it's at geo orbit, then the cable stays still even if you cut it off. A hurricane would push the cable sideways, tidal gravity is enough to keep the cable taut by itself. It's a non-stable equilibrium however; eventually the cable will drift enough to escape earth gravity. Unless it hits a mountain first. But even then, EVERYONE is under it. It'll wrap around the earth at least once before it's done falling...

Re:Kind of scary. (2, Funny)

csimicah (592121) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952125)

It _is_ pretty scary to think about a paper thin ribbon of material falling on your head. It would probably get in your hair and necessitate a shower and a vigorous shampooing.

Re:Kind of scary. (3, Informative)

Docrates (148350) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952153)

God Damnit... because of people like you Clarke once said "the elevator will be built 50 years after people stop laughing".

Would you please document yourself, make the appropriate research [www.isr.us], concentrate for 2 seconds on the topic at hand before you open your hole and spill out the first fearful thought that comes to your mind?

- It would be built in the middle of the ocean on a floating platform
- If it broke, most of the 100,000Km would NOT fall to earth (junior high physics can tell you that), and most of the piece that would, would burn in reentry
- What remains would be much more harmless than your poisonous, unscientific whining.

You're like those people that hear the word "nuclear" and immediately thing BAD BAD BAD

Re:Kind of scary. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952167)

I'm sure those Islamic Terrorists are already planning to blow it up, and take as many innocent civilians with it.

Re:Kind of scary. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952173)

Good god you're a thick cunt, aren't you? It can't fall unless the earth stops spinning, and I think that would be more concerning that some cable falling.

Why is Slashdot populated by so many uneducated wankers like this guy?

So what happens (-1, Troll)

egg troll (515396) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952014)

When Islamic terrorists fly a couple of planes into this?

Re:So what happens (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952027)

I imagine they would have SAM emplacements all around the island where this thing would be tethered.

Re:So what happens (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952039)

Shredded plane. (strong cable - duh)
And the lowest note ever twanged.

WHY WAS THIS MODDED DOWN? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952098)

The parent post seems like a legitimate question to me? Something as huge and expensive as a space elevator will no doubt make an attractive target to those who are willing to kill to make a political statement. How do we plan to keep safe something like this?

ATTN: MODERATION ABUSE.. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952143)

it seems that the thin-skinned, P.C. moderators can't accept the reality of today's post 9/11 world.

You can mod this down to hell and ignore the issue, but it still is a valid one.

Abusing your mod privileges like this shows how much free speech there really is on slashdot.

Free speech except when it's speech I don't agree with.

terds rule (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952015)

i just shat myself

this would be sweet (0)

the_2nd_coming (444906) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952016)

though it would have to be at the poles for stability sake.

Re:this would be sweet (1)

grub (11606) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952040)


though it would have to be at the poles for stability sake.

How do you propose to have a geostationary orbit at the poles?

Re:this would be sweet (2, Interesting)

Pyromage (19360) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952043)

Why would it have to be at the poles? I can't see any reason whatsoever for that restriction.

Re:this would be sweet (1)

the_2nd_coming (444906) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952068)

geosync orbit.

otherwise, you would have an elivator that flys through the atmosphear at amasing velocity and is almost imposable to step onto with out going fast yourself.

Re:this would be sweet (1)

donutello (88309) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952079)

Why would it have to be at the poles? I can't see any reason whatsoever for that restriction

Because you don't want to deal with the centrifugal force associated with stuff at the equators.

An object on the surface of the earth travels at a speed proportional to its distance from the axis that the earth rotates in. An object in geostationary object above that same object has to move at a much faster speed to keep up because it is circumscribing a bigger circle. So if you built the elevator at some point other than the poles, you have to make sure you provide transverse acceleration to any objects you send up the elevator.

On the other hand, at the poles, the whole elevator is in line with the earths axis and you don't have to worry about accelerating the objects you are sending up.

Re:this would be sweet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952058)


-1, Retard

Re:this would be sweet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952127)

This post brought to you by the "back-to-high-school-physics department."

Re:this would be sweet (2, Informative)

SillySlashdotName (466702) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952138)

It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to post and remove all doubt.

Guestion for you - what do YOU think would hold this thing up? Maybe you expect a bunch of Indian Fakirs to be sitting around the base blowing on flutes? (reference to Indian Rope Trick for those who were wondering...)

To answer my own question, the fact that one end of the cable is moving faster than the other end makes the part that is moving want to fly off in a straight line - but the tensile strength of the cable keeps the two hooked together. If the cable were at either of the poles, there would be a bunch less difference in speed between the two ends - and the system would be more UNSTABLE.

Re:this would be sweet (1)

IRandom (219465) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952159)

It has to be over the equator in order to be in geosync orbit.
Objects that are in a distance of 36,000 km from earth will complete one orbit every 23 hrs 56 min, so if it will be over the equator and move in the same direction as earch it will be over the same position on earth

and then (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952017)

they discovered crack.

Yeah right, wake up.

Europeans, mod this up! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952026)

God Bless America

God Bless America, with the worst crime levels in the first world
God Bless America, where "democracy" means a rich, white male as Presiden t
God Bless America, the biggest consumer of the world's natural resources
God Bless America, so happy to violate international laws
God Bless America, where "freedom of speech" means race-hate groups like KKK
God Bless America, and its massive and ever-growing poverty gap
God Bless America, with barely 300 years of dire history and culture
God Bless America, all its appalling "sitcoms" with no grasp of irony
God Bless America, with the highest obesity levels in the developed world
God Bless America, because corporations should be allowed to run amok
God Bless America, wasting billions to attack foreign countries

God Bless America, and thank God I don't have to live there.

Re:Europeans, mod this up! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952115)

God Bless America, where "freedom of speech" means race-hate groups like KKK

And where HATERS of White people like yourself have the right to HATE White people, just like White people have the right to HATE your kind..

If it weren't for White, Western Europeans there would be no "First World" you and your kind would still be living in mud huts and eating your neighbors..

You better think about the things White men have done for the world before you flap your boot lips..

Re:Europeans, mod this up! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952136)

WTF? I am white. Whan on Earth are you on about? I'm just saying we don't have organised, allowed racial hatred groups in Europe because we know that there should be a limit on freedom of speech.

Bear in mind, fat yankee boy, you've only been on that continent for a few hundred years. Europe has thousands of years of experience and knowledge behind it; we're looking at the mistakes you're making and sighing.

Again and again and again.

Idealism... (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952028)

It's all very well wanting to build things that appeared in Sci Fi novels, but they fail to take into account the reality of the modern world. If someone's willing to topple a couple of 107m tall towers, what do you think they'd do to a 100,000km high space elevator? Ignore it?

That said, it is a neat idea, and if we can realise it, then great. But is now the best time to be building this kind of stuff?

Re:Idealism... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952048)

Oops, I meant 107 storeys tall, not metres.

Re:Idealism... (1)

KillaMarcilla (653547) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952052)

You'd have to be at the top of the cable to do anything particularly harmful to it

Think of it as a cable hanging down from geosynchronous orbit, not a tower

Re:Idealism... (1)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952053)

It's been discussed many times that if such a thing failed, damage would be minimal:

1. Depending on what happens it might simply fly into space.
2. If it falls, most of it would burn in the atmosphere.
3. If it reaches surface it'd be somewhere in the ocean anyway, so damage would be minimal.
4. Targeting a thin wire somewhere in the middle of the ocean is much harder than two giant towers.

Re:Idealism... (5, Insightful)

ericman31 (596268) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952093)

Most of the "Golden Age of Sci Fi" writers were/are scientists and engineers. The things they wrote/write about actually have some basis in physics. Heinlein spent days and sometimes weeks

calculating orbits by hand (this was before the advent of the PC, remember), for example. Much of our scientific and engineering achievement today was first written about by Sci Fi authors, including personal computers, world wide networks, men traveling in outerspace, satellites, genetic engineering, waterbeds and much more. I personally hope we continue building what Sci Fi writers write about. Idealism and dreams lead to greatness. Pragmatism and "being realistic" lead to boredom and stagnation.

Re:Idealism... (5, Insightful)

Eric Ass Raymond (662593) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952120)

So the terrorists have already won: we can't build something because someone might blow it up?

New continents were found, the sound barrier was broken and even space flight was developed at the cost of human life. Yet, it was worth it.

As a species we have become too concerned about safety. We are afraid to such extent that testing new discoveries (medicinal, chemical and physical) are becoming so burdened by the hysterical safeguards, governmental red tape and the associated costs that nothing ever gets done. To my mind, this development threatens the very progess of our species.

hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952032)

Wouldn't the ozone layer burn the cable...this doesnt make much sence.

And imagine if the thing broke and the cable fell~

Error in article: (5, Informative)

earthforce_1 (454968) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952033)

From the story:
----
A space elevator would make rockets redundant by granting cheaper access to space. At about a third of the way along the cable - 36,000km from Earth - objects take a year to complete a full orbit. If the cable's centre of gravity remained at this height, the cable would remain vertical, as satellites placed at this height are geostationary, effectively hovering over the same spot on the ground.
------

Actually, at 36,000 km from earth, objects take a day, not a year to complete a full orbit. The moon takes about 28 days to complete an orbit, (one lunar cycle) and any object far enough out from the earth to require a year in order to complete an orbit would passed the instability limit, where it would be captured away by the sun's gravity, and would no longer orbit earth.

Re:Error in article: (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952049)

Yeah, the article's byline also refers to it as an "escalator" which is so stupid I don't know where to start, so I won't bother. Once again a craptacular article. Couldn't the submitter find some other mention of the conference to link?

Re:Error in article: (1)

mblase (200735) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952050)

Actually, at 36,000 km from earth, objects take a day, not a year to complete a full orbit.

Yeah, that bit made me wonder, too. Glad I wasn't the only one to catch it.

For more info on Space Elevators (5, Informative)

Phoenixhunter (588958) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952034)

http://www.spaceelevator.com/ About the only place I could find with all the information piled into one spot.

Not Up Yet (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952060)

It's not going Up until we can look up and see it...whether it is going up or down during construction.

Not an impossibility? (5, Informative)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952070)

The state of the art is not quite strong enough or long enough.

Quote from the article:

"Until some of the basic science concerning how to connect nanotubes together and transfer load between them in a composite is understood it will remain elusive, but a lot of progress is being made."

Basically, the state of the art with carbon nanotubes is that you can build them a few centimeters long, of almost/just about the right strength (72 Gpa); but nobody has made or can make a rope even 1 foot long with the right strength (ideally 130 GPa including a 50% safety factor).

State of the art carbon nanotube ropes are down under 3GPa (less than Kevlar strength). To oversimplify the problem nanotubes are very slippery and hard to join with any strength. Splicing rope out of threads traditionally loses 20% of the strength, but nanotubes are too slippery, and not strong enough anyway for that right now.

Still, enormous progress has been made; and it looks surprisingly promising; but it's impossible right now.

Wow (3, Funny)

lateralus (582425) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952075)

Thats the longest extension on a CAT-5 I've ever heard of, I'd go with wireless instead.

You'd also have God's wrath to deal with when he trips over it when going to the fridge for a midnight snack.

Re:Wow (1)

mblase (200735) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952099)

Thats the longest extension on a CAT-5 I've ever heard of, I'd go with wireless instead.

Brings a whole new meaning to "satellite broadband", too.

"Where d'you want us to send the cable into your house?" "Oh, just drop it straight down through the chimney, same as everyone else."

Re:Wow (1)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952170)

Actually they are planning on using wireless to power the elevator (probably laser power)- wires would be far too heavy; and you need a lot of energy to climb that high.

So far as I know the data connection technology for the car has not been speced yet, so I don't know how they intend to get Slashdot :-)

Um...... (-1, Troll)

Serapth (643581) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952077)

The other end would be attached to an orbiting object in space acting as a counterweight, the momentum of which would keep the cable taut and allow vehicles to climb up and down it.

Now... what the hell is the other object going to be that is going to act as a counterweight? Wouldnt the damned thing need to be comprable in mass to the earth... or atleast the earth, minus the weight change due to the rotation?

Thats one bloody huge paperweight!

Sorry this sounds like pure sci/fi... glad to see nasa isnt wasting taxpayers money anymore...

Re:Um...... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952139)

read the article dumbass.

the counterweight is just to add some tension so the vehicles climbing the elevator don't pull it down.

initially the counterweight would just be the satellite that lowered the elevator in the first place - which would be added to by the weight first vehicles climbing to it to release their payloads to allow larger vehicles to climb after them.

Re:Um...... (1)

csimicah (592121) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952151)

1. Invent ridiculous, incorrect hypothesis about proposed system. 2. Make fun of NASA for having such a ridiculous invention. 3. ??? 4. Profit!

Re:Um...... (1)

Angram (517383) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952158)

It wouldn't have to equal the mass of the Earth - we're not trying to make the cable the center of an Earth-counterweight co-revolutionary system here. It just has to be massive enough that the centrifugal force on it would be enough to hold taut the cable. Tie a rock to a string and swing it around - the string remains taut, but the rock isn't your weight!

harnessing the public interest (4, Interesting)

mblase (200735) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952082)

One unlikely problem could be capturing the public's imagination. "When we actually start launching this it's going to be kind of boring," Dr Edwards said. "There's no smoke, there's no pillars of fire and there's no loud rumbling noises. There's just this thing that slowly ascends the ribbon into space."

This problem would be neatly solved once the initial expense of the elevator was recouped. At this point it would be much cheaper to send objects into orbit, including people... ride up the chain, get on a space suit, get out on your own nanotube cable and float around 36,000 km above the earth without ever needing to learn how to help fly a space shuttle.

I foresee an enormous tourist interest, to the point that someday several elevators will be sent up exclusively for tourists to use.

What about the static electricity it will generate (5, Interesting)

pair-a-noyd (594371) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952083)

Nasa played around with dragging wires through the atmosphere to generate static electricity.

This thing will could possibly generate HUGE amounts of SE as the atmosphere whizzes past it 24/7. Are there plans to capture and use this electricity or what??

Anyone see the good in this? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952094)

Everyone is bashing this, but can you see the good in it? Elevators don't cost millions of dollers to launch. They don't explode in midflight. Most of all, they are cheap. My only problem with this is where the hell the elevator goes to. Does it just...go up?

What happens when... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952116)

What happens when the terrorist group du jour flies a plane or missle into it?

What goes up must come down/Spinning wheel got to (-1, Offtopic)

jerryasher (151512) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952117)

While I am a great backer of the space elevator, for some reason Blood Sweat and Tear's Spinning Wheel comes to mind.

What goes up must come down
Spinnin' wheel got to go 'round
Talkin' 'bout your troubles it's a cryin' sin
Ride a painted pony let the spinnin' wheel spin

You got no money and you got no home
Spinnin' wheel all alone
Talkin' 'bout your troubles and you never learn
Ride a painted pony let the spinnin' wheel turn

Did you find the directing sign on the
Straight and narrow highway
Would you mind a reflecting sign
Just let it shine within your mind
And show you the colors that are real

Someone is waiting just for you
Spinnin' wheel, spinnin' true
Drop all your troubles by the riverside
Ride a painted pony let the spinning wheel fly]

(I note that some configurations of the space elevator is that of a spinning space cable with a hook at the end that periodically touches the earth, grabs a cargo and raises it into space.)a

problems... (1)

lemist (638625) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952118)

Am I the only person that sees the obvious negative consequences of this? How hard would it be to sabotage this elevator and have the thing either fall down on Earth, or fly away from Earth (I don't know how gravity would affect it, I'm not an expert or even a novice on that). I see it as a really bad idea because it can go wrong very easily.

Insert lame joke here. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952123)

Pretend that I posted a lame joke about listening to elevator music for a very long time. Then mod me up as "Funny". Half of the so-called "Funny" posts aren't, so this one will fit in nicely.

Correction (4, Informative)

merlin_jim (302773) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952128)

A space elevator would make rockets redundant by granting cheaper access to space. At about a third of the way along the cable - 36,000km from Earth - objects take a year to complete a full orbit. If the cable's centre of gravity remained at this height, the cable would remain vertical, as satellites placed at this height are geostationary, effectively hovering over the same spot on the ground.

Objects take one DAY to complete a orbit at 36,000 km... and if that orbit is in the same direction as the earth turns, then you can orbit continuously over a spot on the equator. There's actually a minor perturbation, but those forces are minor compared to the other forces a space elevator would have to deal with...

BTW, a nice recent sci-fi novel on the subject of space elevators is _Rainbow_Mars_ by Larry Niven, of _Ringworld_ fame.

Boring is ok with me (4, Insightful)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952129)

From the article: "When we actually start launching this it's going to be kind of boring," Dr Edwards said.

After watching rockets (and shuttles) explode into spectacular fireballs, boring is just fine with me. Considering the majority of mass on any rocket is used to just get it to a level of orbit, this could be a nice way for us to start working toward the moon (and eventually beyond) again.

The really exciting will no longer be GETTING into orbit, but rather what we can do once we get there.

Looks like the pointy haired boss at work again (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952141)

...estimates it would take about $7bn (4.4bn) to turn the concept into reality...

So how exactly do you come up with a budget for a project that calls for an unknown (but massive) amount of nonexistanium, delivered to orbit no less?

I want one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952144)

If I had one, I could do cool things like drop stuff from 10,000 miles up and see what happens.

Hey, let's do an open source version. If the government can do this for 10 billion, then we ought to be able to for about 10 thousand. Put the case moders on it, they will figure out how to make it with some plexiglass they found in a dumpster instead of carbon fiber.

I mean, we liberated cryptography, why not space travel? Imagine RMS writing a free license to protect the whole universe.

Defending a one meter wide cable below 60,000 feet (4, Interesting)

jerryasher (151512) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952157)

From the article.... "The biggest technical obstacle is finding a material strong but light enough to make the cable; this is where the carbon nanotubes come in. These are microscopically thin tubes of carbon that are as strong as diamonds but flexible enough to turn into fibre. In theory, a nanotube ribbon about one metre wide and as thin as paper could support a space elevator."

I know the fiber is as strong as diamonds, and I understand that along it's 100,000 km length it's flexible enough to dodge objects.

But how will they protect it from, well, planes at altitudes below 100,000 feet?

Mutant life forms (1)

iCat (690740) | more than 10 years ago | (#6952160)

Won't ants and snails and stuff be able to climb up this thing? And what happens when they get zapped by all the radiation up there?

Mars Trilogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6952174)

Read the Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson and this idea might not seem such a great idea given the current global political climate =/
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