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Scientist Sees Space Elevator in 15 Years

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the dream-big dept.

Space 503

bofh31337 writes "Scientist Bradley C. Edwards, head of the space elevator project at the Institute for Scientific Research, thinks an elevator that climbs 62,000 miles into space could be operating in 15 years. He pegs the cost at $10 billion, a pittance compared with other space endeavors. 'It's not new physics--nothing new has to be discovered, nothing new has to be invented from scratch,' he says. 'If there are delays in budget or delays in whatever, it could stretch, but 15 years is a realistic estimate for when we could have one up.' NASA already has given more than $500,000 to study the idea, and Congress has earmarked $2.5 million more."

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Amazingly (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9533555)

He saw the space elevator by looking through a wormhole at a mirror 7.5 years from Earth.

The submitter stole the headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9533614)

The submitter obviously saw this on Drudge Report [yahoo.com] , swiped the headline and link, and submitted it to Slashdot. It was "Scientist Sees Space Elevator in 15 Years" over there too, top headline.

frosty pisth (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9533556)

nah i didn't think so....

I'd volunteer to be an elevator attendant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9533559)

for the chance to get out into space.

"it could stretch" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9533562)

It sure could. It sure could.

no god this can be appening!!! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9533564)

Who would stand Muzak for a 45 min ride.....

Re: no god this can't be appening!!! (1)

Kwantus (34951) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533686)

45 min? Try a week. (Photocell-powered? try a month.)

15 years? (4, Funny)

bugnuts (94678) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533571)

that'll be the wait after pressing the UP button.

Imagine the jerk that presses the "close door" button as you're running.

Re:15 years? (4, Funny)

Scaba (183684) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533670)

Dude, just take the stairs. You kids are sooo lazy today...

#1 thing not to say about a space elevator cable (3, Insightful)

isomeme (177414) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533572)

"it could stretch"

Re:#1 thing not to say about a space elevator cabl (5, Funny)

ari_j (90255) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533738)

#2: In emergency, USE STAIRS

wow (1)

crayz (1056) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533573)

A scientist who thinks nanotube tech will be good enough to make a space elevator two years from now? I had no idea we were anywhere near that close

Re:wow (2, Informative)

cmowire (254489) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533607)

Apparently the major remaining problem is mass production of an approprately strong nanotube. You have to remember that this isn't fully nanotech, it's just a chemical arangement of carbon atoms, so it doesn't require all of the nano-crap that the nanotechnology people have been going along about for so long.

I mean, the thing is, chemical rockets will only take you so far. So it's money well spent, for what the potential benefits would be.

Working elevators on Earth (1, Funny)

macrom (537566) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533574)

You know, it's cool that "they" are going to spend billions on an elevator to space, but I think it would be cooler if they could keep all 4 elevators in my building working correctly. Nothing like getting stuck, or seeing the Schindler repairman come out twice a week. Maybe he could make good use of some research funds!

Re:Working elevators on Earth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9533615)

how is this insightful? it is, in fact, offtopic. mechanical elevators have nothing at all to do with space elevators except sharing a noun.

Re:Working elevators on Earth (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9533627)

reminds me of the elevator in my dorms. If you jumped just right between floors, it would hit the emergency brakes and you'd be stuck... time to call the emergency phone guy.

on the other hand, that's why we had hot girls in the dorms.

Re:Working elevators on Earth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9533655)

Schindler's Lift. The horrors.

Kick Ass (1)

www.fuckingdie.com (759660) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533575)

And you thought that the CN Tower was a long elevator ride. I wonder how long it would take to go that far into space in an elevator? Would there be in-elevator movies and food service?

Re:Kick Ass (4, Informative)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533590)

And you thought that the CN Tower was a long elevator ride. I wonder how long it would take to go that far into space in an elevator? Would there be in-elevator movies and food service?

There would need to be. At any reasonable speed, you're looking at a 24 to 48 hour trip.

Yikes (3, Funny)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533665)

> At any reasonable speed, you're looking at a 24 to 48 hour trip

That's a _shitload_ of crappy muzak, there! Better bring a fully-loaded iPod.

And hope there's no crazy guy singing 'Roxanne' while you're in there.

Re:Kick Ass (1)

Coneasfast (690509) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533720)

And you thought that the CN Tower was a long elevator ride. I wonder how long it would take to go that far into space in an elevator? Would there be in-elevator movies and food service?

There would need to be. At any reasonable speed, you're looking at a 24 to 48 hour trip.


you can live without food or a movie for 24 hours? damn man, what's your secret.

there would need to be basic food, bathroom, and entertainment (to prevent people from going crazy) services.

would be similar to a plane flight.

Re:Kick Ass (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9533742)

elevator music, 24-48hrs straight, small confined space, no bathroom, food. This could be used by the government to pursuade dissadents to talk.

No actually what I was thinking was, don't throw away that empty mountain dew bottle before you get on the elevator. You'll need it in an hour or two.

Ob. RD (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9533645)

Welcome to Xpress Lifts, descent to floor sixteen. You will be going down two thousand, five hundred and sixty-seven floors and, for a small extra charge, you can enjoy the in-lift movie "Gone With the Wind." If you look to your right and to your left, you will notice there are no exits. In the highly unlikely event of the lift having to make a crash-landing, death is certain. Under your seats you will find a cassette for recording your last-minute testament, and from above your head a bag will drop containing sedatives and cyanide capsules.

How Far? (-1)

koa (95614) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533578)


that climbs 62,000 miles into space

I think he means *62* miles, not 62K Miles.

Heh.

Re:How Far? (4, Informative)

TehHustler (709893) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533610)

And I think he means 62,000 miles. 62 Miles is only the boundary of space. What would the point of finishing there be? The reason he says 62,000 is because it covers everything useful in space travel, from Low earth orbit up past geosynchronous orbit.

Re:How Far? (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533644)

Hell, man, that's *way* past geo (22,800miles?) - how far is it to the nearest LaGrange points? I'll hafta check, but I'm thinking way farther than that. What is out that far (but not near far enough for an L-point)? Hmm.

Re:How Far? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9533682)

except i thought geosync orbit was required? for the top of the elevator to remain directly above the ground spot it must be in geosynchronous orbit. Doing otherwise would create stress on the cable that could compromise it's integrity.

Of course, if we had enough of the cable and continually fed the line from the ground station, we could cause the cable to wrap itself around the earth's surface similar to a string on a yo-yo. :-)

Re:How Far? (1)

np_bernstein (453840) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533748)

I'm guessing he actually did mean 62 miles. The point is to reduce the cost of getting things out of orbit. Once there, if you want to get up further, you launch a shuttle from the top of the elevator. 'Sides, I would think they'd want to keep the costs down as much as they can. There is a /slight/ difference in costs between 62 Miles, and 62,000 miles.

Re:How Far? (4, Informative)

sirenbrian (681407) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533629)

No, it *is* 62000 miles. The tether has to be that long to allow a suitable anchor to be attached at the other end and keep the right amount of tension on it. Or something. /not rocket scientist, but mightily impressed at this bloody good idea.

Re:How Far? (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533634)

No he definetly means 62,000 miles, at 62miles high the thing would plumit back down into the earth unless you ahd rockets constantly going on the top of the thing.

Re:How Far? (1)

Courageous (228506) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533640)

You cannot achieve geosynchronous orbit at 62 miles. Hell, I'm not even sure you can even achieve fast orbit there...

C//

Re:How Far? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9533692)

The center of mass would have to be at the point where you would be in geosynchronos orbit, not the farthest point.

Re:How Far? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9533698)

NASA [nasa.gov] says geosynchronous orbit is 36000 km = 22000 miles. I think the 62000 miles part must be so the centrifugal force keeps the cable taut. You could build a solid tower up to 62 miles, but a cable-elevator just wouldn't work at that distance.

Correct me if I'm wrong... (2, Insightful)

kwishot (453761) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533581)

We don't experience this problem *now* merely because we don't have any structure that tall, but if something of this magnitude was built, wouldn't the earths rotation have some sort of effect on this?

-shameless gmail request for a military man... kwishot xatx yahoo-

Correct. (1)

LuckyStarr (12445) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533617)

You must calculate the angle and the length of the ribbon (the position and mass of the counterweight) to even out the centripetal force of the earths gravitation. I can not calculate these for myself but I am sure there are people out there who can. :)

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (1)

sjwaste (780063) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533623)

Yep, the article says the earth's rotation will keep the cable taut. Makes sense.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (2, Informative)

cmowire (254489) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533637)

Already taken into account. In fact, it relies on them. The endpoint is in geosynch orbit, where a orbiting satelite will hover over a specific point, to keep it properly tensioned.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9533647)

You might want to read the article... They are counting on using the earth's rotation to keep the elevator cable taut. "Spinning a ball on a string around your head" was the analogy they used.

Some cautions (3, Funny)

shawkin (165588) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533582)

This is a high performance, high stress ribbon
This application has little room for error. Obviously.

Wear on carbon nanotube ribbons may be significant.
Carbon nanotube ribbons may be susceptible to significant deterioration from cosmic rays.
Micrometeor impacts may also be a problem.

If the ribbon fails, what do we do with 62,000 miles of ribbon?
Oh wait, we build a Beowulf cluster of Christmas wrapping stores.

And then there is the cost estimate.
Low.

Re:Some cautions (1)

jefe7777 (411081) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533651)

if the earth's diameter is ~8000miles, i don't think this ribbon cable is going to be ~8 times that.

can you imagine?

the distance to the moon is around 30 times the earth's diameter...the ribbon @62k miles would be almost a third.

like someone else already posted. i think it's just 62 miles.

not 62,0000 miles.

Re:Some cautions (1)

ceejayoz (567949) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533695)

Like someone else already posted, a 62 mile cable would fall right back down.

You have to have the cable go past geosynchronous orbit to counterbalance and keep the thing taut.

Re:Some cautions (0, Flamebait)

YOUR SIG SUCKS! (712500) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533735)

See Rumsfeld. See Rumsfeld Lie! [moveon.org]

YOUR SIG SUCKS!!!!

Why, you ask? Because people who support moveon ARE THE PEOPLE WHO NEED TO MOVE ON.
Give it up. YOUR LIBERAL RANTINGS GOT BORING 3 YEARS AGO.

YOUR SIG SUCKS!!!

Re:Some cautions (3, Insightful)

cmowire (254489) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533693)

It'd be a bargan at ten times the price, I suspect.

I mean, the big thing is that a few million to really take a good look at it and answer these sorts of questions. Compared to the benefits from being able to get stuff to and from orbit for incredibly low costs, and the cool stuff that then becomes possible, that's small change.

Plus, if it doesn't work out, there's a few *other* teather systems that could work as acceptable substitutes, so I doubt the research would be entirely wasted.

Re:Some cautions (2, Insightful)

ebassi (591699) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533723)

If the ribbon fails, what do we do with 62,000 miles of ribbon?

Given the size of the ribbon, and the fact that carbon nanotubes simply burn out re-entering in the atmosphere, this is a non-issue: the lower part of the severed "cable" would vaporize, the higher part would still be orbiting, attached to the counterweight.

The real question is: what happens when some kilo-miles worth of vaporized carbon nano-tube is released in the atmosphere? Is this stuff ecologically-compatible?

Build at the North Pole -- (1)

PollGuy (707987) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533584)

Then RKO's master plan [reelclassics.com] will come true!

As long as it's not an OTIS (2, Funny)

mr_don't (311416) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533585)

Yeah, i wonder if it will have one of those burgundy phones for when it gets stuck...

Re:As long as it's not an OTIS (1)

jokach (462761) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533681)

If its like the burgundy emergency phone in the elevator I have at work ... it won't work.

A space elevator will not happen in 15 years... (1, Flamebait)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533588)

...and nor could it. We are nowhere near having the kinds of materials required and no plausible extrapolation of technological development over the last century points to such a thing being possible. This is even more implausible than Kurzweil's prediction of a singularity happening in the next few decades. Why is it that people who should know better are often the people who understand the least? And why do other people take any notice of them?

Re:A space elevator will not happen in 15 years... (2, Funny)

Neil Blender (555885) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533604)


Maybe you should take him on at longbets.org.

He has to justify his $500,000. (1)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533611)

Here's what could have happened:

Edwards: "Nope, it'll never work."

NASA: "No more cheques for you, then."

Edwards: "B'oh."

Where's the tower? (1)

Chatmag (646500) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533592)

The story mentions the cable, and a platform, so what kind of a tower arrangement is it going to have?

At any rate, at 62 miles, the lawyers are going to be lining up first, for the "helluva whiplash" suits.

Re:Where's the tower? (1)

dmoore (2449) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533649)

There's no tower. You put a big counterweight at the top. As long as the center of mass is in geosynchronous orbit, it supports itself.

Re:Where's the tower? (0)

Courageous (228506) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533662)

You're assuming that 62,000 miles is a typo? It's not. If the thing comes down it will wrap around the world at like mach-20. TWICE. Helluva whiplash suit there, yeah.

C//

Re:Where's the tower? (2)

Toad-san (64810) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533726)

Who says it'll all come down? Just the part earth-side of the break will drop, the rest will go outwards.

And the part coming down is going to drop _straight_ down, not wrap around anything at all .. just pile up in a big heap. And since the anchor site is offshore, it'll be underwater at that, easily salvaged (if you wanted to).

You haven't worked the physics of this thing out yet, have you?

There is no tower. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9533666)

The platform is in a geostationary orbit. The elevator is only connected to the Earth via the cable.

If it helps, think of it as a space station with a long, tough rope hanging down all the way to the surface. Tie something to the bottom of the rope and all you have to do is haul it up. Bam! Space Elevator.

We've spent money for worse... (2, Interesting)

sjwaste (780063) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533599)

At the minimum, keep this guy funded so he can research the necessary materials. The article gives a timeframe of 2 yrs for the nanotube technology. If something like this could actually be built in the coming generation, getting things into space will probably become a whole lot cheaper.

Plus, a space elevator.. it even SOUNDS cool. Almost as cool as moonbase.

Re:We've spent money for worse... (2, Funny)

dilettante (91064) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533626)

Yeah, but the problem is that the reds will just blow the darn thing up and it'll wrap itself around the planet a couple of times killing everything in its path. Oh, no, wait, that's on Mars. Never mind.

No new news (4, Informative)

Michael Crutcher (631990) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533606)

This is the same story that's been going around for a while, there is no new news in the linked article.

The current issue of Discover magizine has a much longer and more informative writeup.

2 years to work out nanotube materials??? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9533608)

Give me a break. 2 Years? It could be 15 years just to develop a commercial process for the nanotube materials.

There wont be any space elevator anytime soon.

Phil Condit
Boeing

Re:2 years to work out nanotube materials??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9533639)

Phil Condit
Boeing


Dear Mr. Condit,

You do not work at Boeing anymore. Please do not attempt to enter the premises or you will be arrested.

Sincerely,

Boeing Security.

In Space... (5, Funny)

Zorilla (791636) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533609)

...Nobody but you can hear the elevator music

And consequently, nobody can hear you scream.

Arthur C. Clarke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9533613)

Nice little read on such an invention in Clarke's 4th book in his Odyssey quadrilogy- 3001: Final Odyssey. If you're interested in this at all, read the book.

However (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9533624)

Does it have Celine Dion elevator music? If so, fuck it.

Radiation (4, Interesting)

mikejz84 (771717) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533635)

One little problem for a human to ride the space elevator--the slow speed of assent means that people would pass though the Van Allen belt for a rather long time--exposing them to possibly deadly radiation.

Re:Radiation (1)

cmowire (254489) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533661)

Radiation shielding is a well-understood problem. It just takes some extra mass.

Re:Radiation (2, Insightful)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533689)

One little problem for a human to ride the space elevator--the slow speed of assent means that people would pass though the Van Allen belt for a rather long time--exposing them to possibly deadly radiation.

Relatively slow. Once you get out of the atmosphere, speeds of a thousand miles an hour are not unreasonable.

"Nothing new" (2, Insightful)

dj245 (732906) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533636)

nothing new has to be invented from scratch

While technically true, carbon nanotubes need to be much stronger and more developed before they can be employed in a space elevator with a good margin for safety.

How would this affect the economics? (1)

rueba (19806) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533638)

I keep hearing that a space elevator would be the cheapest way to get stuff into space.

How much would it cost to get a pound(or kilo) into space using a space elevator compared with current technologies or the more conventional approaches competing for the X-prize?

Arthur C. Clark (3, Insightful)

isoprophlex (659648) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533641)

Another Arthur C. Clark moment, he has come up with so many amazing inventions in his chronicles. The satellite, now this... Actually I'm not sure if he did come up with the idea, but it was in 3001. So if you want to read about the theories of space elevators. This is the book to pick up.

Re:Arthur C. Clark (3, Informative)

Poseidon88 (791279) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533716)

Well, "3001" wasn't published until 1996. He wrote "The Fountains of Paradise", another book about a space elevator, in 1978. But, at any rate, sci-fi authors rarely think up these things themselves. Instead, they generally get their ideas from journals and contacts in the scientific community. For example, one of my college CS professors is friends with Greg Bear, and helped him with background material for a couple novels.

Re:Arthur C. Clark (1)

TheFlyingGoat (161967) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533719)

Try Fountains of Paradise, and only after you read the article. Nice try, though. :)

Re:Arthur C. Clark (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9533733)

It may not have been the first. I think I read a SF book about the time Fountains of Paradise came out. I think it had "Spider" or something similar in the title, but it's been almost a quarter century since I read it. Perhaps someone else remembers it.

We're almost there (3, Insightful)

Trailer Trash (60756) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533650)

He pegs the cost at $10 billion...NASA already has given more than $500,000 to study the idea, and Congress has earmarked $2.5 million more.

Wow, at this rate, we'll have the money in, oh, 1000 years...

one pitfall they didn't mention (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9533653)

So I was on the Space Elevator last month, and 10 minutes into the ride a guy sitting next to me ripped one! "Sorry," he says, "I had spicy enchiladas for dinner last night." Longest trip of my life.

Brings new meaning... (1)

lohmann (656086) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533654)

...to getting stuck between floors. Stuck between atmospheres, maybe?

What are the obstacles? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9533656)

So what are the obstacles to getting this to work?

The longest nanotubes made so far are less than a millimeter. I suppose the first step is to figure out how to make them longer, and weave them into fibers.

Once this nanotube belt is assembled, how do we get it into space? Even if it is thinner than paper, it will still weight at least a few thousand tons. That is a lot of shuttle flights.

How does the elevator winch itself up the cable?

As for power, aren't nanotubes conductors? So could we use the cable itself to transmit power?

Re:What are the obstacles? (1)

cmowire (254489) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533739)

That's actually worked out.

It's some reasonably small number of launches to send up a few strands, just enough to allow the climber to work.

From there, you start a climber on the base and send up more and more strands, until it's strong enough.

OK, then--call me back in 15 years... (1)

Art Tatum (6890) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533658)

When he sees it.

How is this build? (1)

amacedo (779821) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533669)

I really don't understand how this can be built!
I understand what the final structure will look like in the end and how it is suppose to resist the brutal forces. But how do you connect the start point and the end point? You just don't tie a rope to the space shuttle, you have to have some kind of structure.

Can anyone with clear ideas on the subject enlighten me on this one?

Re:How is this build? (1)

emorphien (770500) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533703)

Theoretically it could be weighted and lowered in to earth's atmosphere by a satellite. Lowering it slowly would avoid the atmospheric resistance and thus not burn it up (similar to how SpaceShipOne survived the return portion of its flight).

In fact, in my mind reeling it out like a rope ladder from a high window is the smartest and easiest thing to do, the only catch would be watching the weather. But they plan to build this in a weather-friendly area anyway, so while it seems bizarre I suspect it's totally feasible.

Re:How is this build? (1)

RatBastard (949) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533744)

You start with the anchor satalite in geosync orbit and you drop the ribbon back down to earth with a weight on it to get it down to the ground. Then you connect it to teh ground anchor and move the anchor satalite to it's propper orbit. All done.

It's like a gigantic spider web.

Or not... (4, Informative)

Dinosaur Neil (86204) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533676)

...nothing new has to be discovered, nothing new has to be invented from scratch...

Uhhm, even in his book, Edwards admits that the carbon nanotubes needed to make this work just aren't there yet; while we can manufacture nanotubes now, we can't make them as strong (by a factor of around 100) or nearly as long (by a factor of 10,000 or more) as needed. While it may well be that, as soon as someone really puts some effort/research bucks into making stronger/longer nanotubes, they will happen, but it seems like 15 years might still be optimistic.

OTOH, this would be way cool, and maybe in my lifetime to boot...

Maybe they should also... (4, Funny)

Rinikusu (28164) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533678)

Build a roller coaster from space, to the earth... Slow ride up.. then massive whoosh on the way down with plenty of loops and turns and upside-down goodness! Imagine the tourism dollars that could go fund the lowly freight elevator next to it! And we could call it.. The.. Great Space Coaster! And hire a GNU named Gary! Or Richard...

But I digress...

Late Again Rory (1)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533687)

What's the story?

Good idea but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9533684)

How do we keep planes from flying into it? And I don't just mean accidentally.

I'm Confused (0, Redundant)

Rura Penthe (154319) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533685)

I'm confused. All the technology is there? What about the technology to build carbon nanotubes of sufficient length to actually make the thing? That seems like a rather obviously lacking area which is preventing the construction of an elevator. Perhaps there's been some kind of advance of which I was not aware?

Technology is advancing at an incedible speed. (2, Informative)

LuckyStarr (12445) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533734)

Processes to make fibres of nanotubes have allready been developed:

http://www.nature.com/nsu/040308/040308-10.html
http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/rnb_0412 0 4.asp

3001 The Final Odyssey (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9533694)

Arthur C. Clarke talked about a space elevator in 3001: The Final Odyssey (1997), and mentions that 1996 Nobel Prize in Quemistry, Dr. Smalley claimed that those buckytubes could be used to build such elevator.

It's all in the marketing. (1)

HarbV7.0 (789071) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533696)

I think Donald Trump should get involved and build one of his towers around it. Hell they could even develop a reality TV show around it, thus generating more revenue! All I can say is if that happens they better also work on those bags the pizza delivery guys use. Even though I may live on the 942nd floor I still want my pizza in less than 30 minutes and it better be hot!

in 15 years... (0)

Joe the Lesser (533425) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533708)

I predict the space cable will be ready in 15 years.

Not for passengers (5, Insightful)

AgentOJ (320270) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533710)

I've read quite a few posts about "riding the space elevator." I'm under the impression (and yes, I RTFA) that the space elevator would be solely used to send cargo up to space. Astronauts would still get up to the ISS by conventional means, and then the space elevator would just be a cheap[er] way to get supplies up to them without worrying about sending up rockets. Unless I missed something, humans wouldn't be travelling on this space elevator at all.

tower of babel? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9533711)

This one is going to make the tower of babel look like a sand castle. What's god going to do about it this time? Knock it down and scatter us across the world and force us speak different languages? Ha!

Two birds with one stone (2, Funny)

siliconjunkie (413706) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533713)

You could have "love in an elevator" *AND* join the "mile high club" at the same time!

But wait.. (1)

kinobsd (621182) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533718)

This [amazon.com] already does that, PLUS it goes frontways, backways upways, downways and any way at all!

WAAYYYY TOO OPTIMISTIC (1)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533721)

When you are dealing with something as major as a space elevator, you don't just rush out as soon as you could possibly build it, and then build it!

This scientist is clearly ignoring the political aspects of building something like this and focusing just on the technology.

Cell phones have been essentially possible since the 1960's. It took some 30 years to work out the kinks, and to get people's heads around the idea, develop the necessary infrastructure, etc.

You have to test it! Get people to see it in the real world so that they see and trust this new technology before we go do something outlandish like build a space elevator!

Do something a little more down to earth, to give us the chance to find the inevitable flaws.

Suspension bridges - I can't think of a better real-world test scenario! Would the cable even be big enough to see from the shore?

One going across the straights of Gibralter would be nice...

Scary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9533725)

What if some huge ass alien comes around in 20 years, sees our cable and just slings us into space?

Scary. :o(

Refuting some silly comments (5, Insightful)

edwinolson (116413) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533729)

Some folks think it's a typo, that it's supposed to be 65 miles, not 65K miles. No, 65K miles is more like it. You really want your elevator's center of mass to be in geosynchronous orbit... Space elevators to LEO tend to, uh, get wound around the earth right fast.

And if the ribbon breaks, things generally aren't so bad. The portion of the elevator (including the counter weight) that's further from the earth will tend to move away from the earth. (If you spin in a circle with a rock in your hand, then let go of the rock, the rock goes away from you, not crashing in towards your head.) The nearer part will tend to fall, but it will tend to fall slowly and is relatively unlikely to cause damage. (At least, according to High lift systems, who came and gave a talk last year.) The elevator, since it's so huge, tends to not be terribly heavy. The system proposed by high lift systems

I believe Brad Edwards was involved in High Lift Systems, so I imagine the basic idea is the same.

If geo is ~20K miles, why does the elevator need to be so long? Does this mean that they're now thinking about a lighter counter weight? They used to talk about capturing an asteroid.

this cable can support 13 tones (1)

eadint (156250) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533730)

OK multiply that by 100 and you might be able to support the cable alone. multiply that by 500 and you might be able to send a can of pepsi up to space.

spoiler (1)

SQLz (564901) | more than 10 years ago | (#9533747)

They should put a spoiler on it at the top. Carbon fiber, and some rimmmzzzzz zz zz.

Sounds like a lot of big talk... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9533749)

Seriously, I don't want to undermine the scientist who obviously (from a Google search) is very experienced/talented, but this report sure makes it sound like a lot of baloney.

All he seems to be saying is, in his own words: "It's not new physics -- nothing new has to be discovered, nothing new has to be invented from scratch".

The "physics" part IMHO is usually only half (or less) the battle won - just because the "physics" is in place doesn't mean the problem is solved. The major obstacles are almost *always* something which has nothing to do with the original problem.

I hereby predict that we can go visit the Andromeda galaxy. "It's not new physics"...but Oh - you have to figure out a reasonable way for the crew to stay alive during the journey - that's a biological problem.

I also predict that flying cars will be the way to travel in the next 5 years - but yeah, we've to figure out a way to make it safer, it's safe from the "physics" point of view, but the engines would need to be so huge and noisy that nobody in their right mind would buy it. And yes, there's a little work to be done in order to make it safe too - but that's not really our problem.

Seriously, I never doubted that we could come up with a material light enough and as strong as steel in order to make the Space Elevator a practical possibility. But the surrounding problems (I could name a few, but I'm too drunk right now) are the ones that need to be solved before making lofty predictions.

And before I forget *hic*...Hiya to all the other Slashdotters spending their Friday evenings at home.

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