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NPR Talks Skyhooks

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the beyond-the-clouds dept.

Space 328

David writes "NPR's Talk of the Nation this past week featured Brad Edwards, President of Carbon Designs Inc., to talk about their plans to develop an elevator that would lift people to an object orbiting in outer space. The project's homepage details their plans and ambitions. The discussion expands on callers' concerns about such problems as commercial airliners running into the super long cable or if it would act as a conduit for lightning."

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328 comments

good idea (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12731087)

for me to poop on!

Re:good idea (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12731194)

Are you talking to me?

BILL CLINTON was on TOTN (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12731390)

More importantly, Bill Clinton was featured on this past Friday's TOTN [npr.org].
Mod this down, but it was a great show and a must listen.

Skyhooks? (3, Funny)

imroy (755) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731089)

Does the audio program mention the word "skyhook"?
Why bring up the Aussie 70's supergroup [wikipedia.org]?

Re:Skyhooks? (1)

dougmc (70836) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731207)

Does the audio program mention the word "skyhook"?
If I recall correctly, the glass elevator in Willy Wonka and the Great Glass Elevator was powered by or held up by skyhooks.

I suspect you already know this, but figured somebody else might not get the reference.

Space Tech & Chinese Military (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12731287)

The management of Carbon Designs should vet their workforce and ensure that no Chinese nationals are currently employed [phrusa.org]. Beijing for many years has sought to militarize space, and accessing this space-elevator technology would enable them to accelerate such nefarious plans.

Cripes (0, Troll)

phobonetik (522196) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731091)

Wow, never read about something like this on Slashdot before. (Actually, I think the Space Elevator idea is very cool)

Re:Cripes (3, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731106)

I was thinking the same thing. It's way overhyped. Although, the concerns cited in the summary aren't that major.

Commercial airliners will never get close to it; that's what no fly zones are for. Even if an airplane crashed into it, one solution successfully deals with both airline impacts and lightning: "maypoling" the skyhook as it nears the ground (i.e., splitting it into several cables, of which most, but not all, are needed for stability/strength.) As for lightning itself, most types of CNTs would be the "path of most resistance", barring heavy condensation on the cable. Plus, some sites in the world have very little lightning.

Re:Cripes (2, Insightful)

mbrother (739193) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731169)

It isn't overhyped until there are competing groups actually building one. Furthermore, what is "overhyped on slashdot" is rarely even in the public consciousness. Live with it, love it, until it spills into the public imagination and gets warped into an evil, multi-national corporation's wet dream. THEN complain.

I agree that most of the technical objections are not-too-hard-to-overcome engineering challenges, not showstoppers. If you're reading this and think you have a fatal flaw to the whole concept, and haven't spent months on it doing some calculations and reading papers, I'll take the opportunity to laugh at your idea now.

Re:Cripes (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12731213)

Author of Star Dragon (now available for FREE d/l)
Your "book" is a bit over priced. Sorry.

I'll take the opportunity to laugh at your idea now.
They're talking about building a space elevator and you are laughing at other people's ideas of flaws in the concept?? Please feel free to invest large amounts of your own money in the space elevator. I'm absolutely certain that a space elevator is as feasible as are profits from your book. As for the laughing, I'm going to wait a bit. After all, he who laughs last...

Re:Cripes (1)

mbrother (739193) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731232)

Bad puppy, no treat!

I laugh at uninformed opinions. I've also made five figures on the hardback/paperback book, so I guess I'm laughing all the way to the bank.

Sorry for feeding the troll -- someone should mod the parent as offtopic.

Re:Cripes (1)

trewornan (608722) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731385)

I agree that most of the technical objections are not-too-hard-to-overcome engineering challenges, not showstoppers

Yeah but they've got a slight problem - we don't yet have the technology to make a cable strong enough. Until we do it's just so much science fiction.

If you're reading this and think you have a fatal flaw to the whole concept, and haven't spent months on it doing some calculations and reading papers, I'll take the opportunity to laugh at your idea now

Actually the concept, physics and calculations are quite simple (took me about half an hour to work out the tensile strenght required in the cable), the only question is how strong nanotubes can be - and nobody can answer that.

Re:Cripes (2, Interesting)

mbrother (739193) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731428)

Yes. I'm not laughing. That's an informed opinion based on knowing something about material science.
Progress has been fast with CNT materials. The promise (which is a promise not a certainty) is that we'll know if we can make a strong enough material in the next five years based on CNT technology. Investing in this sort of research is a good idea (and we nearly hired someone this year who worked in the area).

Maypoling to avoid sats too (1)

UnapprovedThought (814205) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731375)

As long as you're maypoling near the bottom (which introduces a railroad switch like complexity to runners traveling up/down the elevator), you may as well maypole near the middle where satellites are most likely to hit the elevator, so that the platform on the ground (sea or mountaintop) doesn't have to be moving around. You simply rotate, say, two cables 10 kilometers apart, 90 degrees as needed to avoid collisions, death rays and the like.

At that point, maypoling should be used at the top too, in reverse, so that there only needs to be a standard width for the cables, making them cheaper to manufacture over a highly tapered single cable. If the same machinery used to build suspension bridges and other things can be used for the space elevator, the sales volume will make it even cheaper.

Having to negotiate intersections introduces an extra complexity, slows down the speed of travel and adds extra weight, but it may become a desirable complexity at some point if it allows simultaneous up/down travel (i.e. more capacity), can be extended to make travel easy between elevators, etc.

Re:Cripes (1)

sentientbeing (688713) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731444)

It wont be a problem. The carbon ribbon doesnt weigh much - and when 10,000 miles of silver foil lands on a town, someone will just open a beowulf cluster of christmas wrappping stores.

wrong concerns (3, Insightful)

cryptoz (878581) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731093)

Wow, our society has changed. The concept of airliners being uninformed of the location of these cables or whatever they are is just plain stupid. Of course they will know that they're there. Not to mention, even if they didn't know, the chance of a collision is fabulously small.

People should be more worried about if this is the best way to spend money or not. Personally, I think it's a pretty sweet idea and I'd be totally for supporting it. Looks quite awesome, actually!

Re:wrong concerns (2, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731114)

Not to mention, even if they didn't know, the chance of a collision is fabulously small.

Unless the pilot is a crazed Saudi with a taste for Flight Simulator...

Re:wrong concerns (5, Insightful)

bobetov (448774) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731189)

Please. Stopping the construction of fabulous new projects because they could be terrorist targets is defeatist at best.

Besides, the very first use of the very first skyhook should be to build the *second* one. It only gets easier the more we do it, and boy, does taking an elevator beat strapping an explosion to your butt.

Here's to audacity and dreaming big dreams.

Re:wrong concerns (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12731274)

Please. Stopping the construction of fabulous new projects because they could be terrorist targets is defeatist at best.

Look, I'm not shouting "terrorism!" like the Bushies and Reaganites, nor am I suggesting we don't make it because it could be wrecked by terrorists. I'm merely countering the GP's argument, which was that the hitting the cable is highly unlikely : someone with the will to hit it makes the occurance a lot more likely, that's all I'm saying :-)

Re:wrong concerns (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12731144)

I would imagine the concern with airliners would be more in line with, say, having them hijacked and rammed into the elevator. Although to be fair, I'm sure that a space elevator's cables would be small enough to make them fairly difficult to aim at with an aircraft.

This still leaves the question of how to defend a very long, expensive and symbolic set of cables from attacks (either by terrorists or militaries), however.

Re:wrong concerns (1)

bsiggers (57684) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731195)

Interesting is, what's the failure mode on these cables. Say it does break, do we have to deal with some massive super-strong whip circling the globe and smashing everything in it's path?

Re:wrong concerns (2, Informative)

mbrother (739193) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731254)

No, because it's very light and will be spread out over an area. Think of dropping a ribbon off a building. Payloads in transit are a larger issue, but more on the level of a plane crash than a nuclear explosion.

Re:wrong concerns (1)

cryptoz (878581) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731360)

Unless your payloads in transit happen to be large, armed nuclear weapons. Which, you all know, is certainly an application of such a device. Not that dropping an armed nuclear weapon would set it off (would it?), but you never know...

Re:wrong concerns (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12731398)

Why would anyone send up an ARMED nuclear weapon?
Even if we forget that bringing nuclear weapons into space violates a few international treaties, do you realy think they'd send them up armed, or whithout serious protection?

Re:wrong concerns (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12731417)

You do realize I wasn't being serious when posting that...

Re:wrong concerns (1)

Zerth (26112) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731373)

Why must someone bring this up every time? The cable is ultra-light. Large chunks would burn up and small chunks would flutter like paper.

I've probably been trolled.

Re:wrong concerns (1)

znu (31198) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731442)

Moreover, it's suspended from the top. If you cut it a mile from the bottom, a mile of it flutters down. The rest hovers, of if the cable was under tension, rises. Depending on how easy it is to splice whatever material is eventually used (we haven't got one strong enough yet), it might even be possible to repair the thing.

Yeah... (0, Offtopic)

ImaLamer (260199) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731311)

If only it could lift people out of Darfur...

(I'm afraid to fly, logic aside, *this* terrifies me.)

Stuck... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12731095)

Would Not Like to be stuck if that elevator breaks down :|

Re:Stuck... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12731214)

The worst part would be the unending music!

The next x-prize (5, Interesting)

maelstrom (638) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731098)

Here is some money that NASA could "invest" in another x-prize like compitition. Get some innovation back into the space game. Maybe once China starts blasting some people towards Mars the US will get off its ass again.

Re:The next x-prize (1)

RileyLewis (826273) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731113)

What, first person to build a Skyhook gets $50,000? I've already started on my lego elevator, but I ran out after 23 blocks high.

Re:The next x-prize (4, Funny)

drwho (4190) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731174)

Any such competition would likely come with "strings attached". ;)

Re:The next x-prize (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731204)

Here is some money that NASA could "invest" in another x-prize like compitition.

They already are.

NASA's Centennial Challenges Program [nasa.gov]

2005 Tether Challenge [elevator2010.org]

2005 Beam Power Challenge [elevator2010.org]

Slashdot article from a few months ago [slashdot.org]

Granted, it'd be nice to see them offer more money, but Congress is currently keeping them from awarding prizes larger than a certain amount.

Answer (4, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731101)

From TFA:

We firmly believe that the set of technologies that underlie the infinite promise of the Space Elevator can be demonstrated, or proven infeasible, within a 5 year time-frame. And hence our name. Elevator:2010. we promise to get an answer for you by then.

Message 5 years from now:

42

I don't get it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12731179)

Is this a reference to some sci-fi movie or something? I don't get it.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

mbrother (739193) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731272)

42 is the answer to the life, the universe, and everything in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Even with all of this innovation... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12731109)



Linux is still for fags.

Re:Even with all of this innovation... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12731139)

I second this. Linux is for fags.

Re:Even with all of this innovation... (-1, Troll)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731201)

I third this notion, with one small exception:

Linux is still for fags, and white people, black people, chinese, martian, dwarfs, mentally challenged people, hermaphrodites, texans, rich business men, poor business men and even women.
Apologies to anybody who I missed out, but you are all welcome.

We hope whoever you are and whatever religion you are using, you should feel at home with linux :)

Parent poster, you really should have finished your posting and not left it so bare.

(aren't trolls boring.)

Towers 2.0 (-1, Flamebait)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731124)

They should build a pair of these in New York Harbor, and call it the "Worlds Trade Center".

Re:Towers 2.0 (1)

thefirelane (586885) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731138)

Don't space elevators have to be built along the equator?

Re:Towers 2.0 (2, Informative)

yotto (590067) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731156)

*Don't space elevators have to be built along the equator?

I thought this as well, but no, they don't. A rough diagram of a space elevator would be:
O--------
Where the "O" is the Earth. Imagine, right before "tying down" the base of your elevator, you drag i "up" a few dozen degrees to New York. The farther North you go, the more of an angle it will have, but it's not unstable so long as it's anchored.
The first thousand miles of the climb would be like a very steep gondola ride.

Re:Towers 2.0 (1)

thefirelane (586885) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731224)

Doesn't an orbit have to go around the center of gravity of what its orbiting? If so, it wouldn't be able to simply always be 'over' NYC. Right?

Re:Towers 2.0 (1)

yotto (590067) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731255)

The satellite is "over" the equator, but where you anchor the cable on the surface of the Earth doesn't have to be on a straight line between the satellite and the center of the Earth.

Re:Towers 2.0 (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731231)

Yes, an off-equator tower would connect an anchor to an equitorial geosync satellite at an angle. Pitch from an equatorial anchor is 90'; polar pitch is 0'. At about N40' latitude, the cable would appear to head South, rising at 50'. Such a "leaning tower of New York" would stretch across the southern half of the Northern Hemisphere, along the East Coast, the mouth of the Caribbean, and NE South America. The lower part of the tether could include radio equipment working like traditional geosynchronous satellites, but with much less latency, owing to the much lower elevation. Taking the place of the old WTC antennae, which, though higher than practically any other building in the US, still had a relatively close horizon. The question is whether the tether's tensile strength can handle the force vector at 40' to its linear axis, rather than the typical 0' when it's normal to the equator. And whether any sag would make the already longer distance inefficient, either in ascending travel or manufacture (shipping the tether anchored to a ship to be reanchored in NYC) remains to be seen. But the WTC v1.0 was expensive - it would have been cheaper to build it in Puerto Rico or Ecuador. But not nearly as useful to New Yorkers. Let's make one!

Re:Towers 2.0 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12731392)

The question is whether the tether's tensile strength can handle the force vector at 40' to its linear axis, rather than the typical 0' when it's normal to the equator.

First, no flexible cable is going to experience a force in any direction but along its length, or it will change shape until the force is along its length.

Second, in an equatorial elevator, there is no force at the lower end (the end effectively "floats"). The issue with a non-equatorial tether is that there are tremendous forces trying to move that end towards the equator, so you need a very strong anchor (not needed at all for an equatorial tether), and a stronger cable, which is heavier, which increases the load, which requires a stronger cable, and so on. And the anchor needs to be attached to something, and rock ain't made of nanotubes, so you'll have to distribute the force somehow -- I don't think this is going to be tied to the top of some building in Manhattan.

I think it's a bit premature to propose such a challenge before we even have an equatorial elevator working.

Re:Towers 2.0 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12731426)

it's not unstable so long as it's anchored

As if that part is somehow easy? The forces on the anchor are tremendous in such a situation, and the forces on the cable are increased, so it needs to be stronger.

"Being inside a nuclear fireball isn't dangerous as long as you're wearing protective clothing."

I just have to ask... (3, Funny)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731136)

When the space elevator is built, just what kind of elevator music will it have?

The longest song in my MP3 collection is 22:43 (Autobahn by Kraftwerk - even on topic, sort of...) Is that long enough for the ride up? How many quarters do I need to put in the slot?

Re:I just have to ask... (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731155)

The longest song in my MP3 collection is 22:43 (Autobahn by Kraftwerk - even on topic, sort of...) Is that long enough for the ride up?

I think you're looking at something like Wagner's Ring Cycle instead. 18 hours sounds about right for a space elevator ride.

How many quarters do I need to put in the slot?

What the hell elevator do you ride that requires you to pay to get musak?? Personally, I'd pay to silence the damn thing...

Re:I just have to ask... (1)

samnice (879259) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731176)

from the site: http://www.elevator2010.org/site/primer.html [elevator2010.org]
"# The ribbon is 62,000 miles long, about 3 feet wide, and is thinner than a sheet of paper. It is made out a material called Carbon Nanotube Composite. # The climbers travel at a steady 200 miles per hour, do not undergo accelerations and vibrations, can carry large and fragile payloads, and have no propellant stored onboard."
so lets see . . . 62,000/200 = 310 hours! how many times do i have to listen to Kraftwerk?

Re:I just have to ask... (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731250)

310 Hours! I have you covered. I have 370 hours in the "MP3" folder (30.9GB), most of it is actually legit ;-) Some, of "unknown" origin. Stuff just shops up.

We'll put my collection on "shuffle" for ya.

The real reason for my reply is this - CRAP! I don't care if you can make it "thinner than a sheet of paper". Please make it thicker, just for marketing purposes. I'll feel better, a lot of folks would. I don't know how thick it needs to be to be "substantial", that is a question for some undergrade survey.

OT: LOL - I just put my ENTIRE MP3 collection on shuffle, to get that total number. Damn! my (15 yro) daughter must have been adding to it... I am now listening to "Martyr Ad" - "American Hollow". I think If I heard this in the space elevator, I'd Fear for Falling all the way to the "bottom".

Re:I just have to ask... (2, Interesting)

mbrother (739193) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731289)

The whole concept requires it to be thin. The key is to have a material strong enough to hold up its own weight, because tens of thousands of miles of stuff adds up. What's more disconcerting to me is that at any real distance, it will be essentially invisible.

Re:I just have to ask... (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731383)

Read my reply to yotto for the "serious" response.

Just for kicks - the current random song playing on my collection is "Doom II" - "13 - waiting for romero to pl"

Hmmm... a sign?

Re:I just have to ask... (1)

yotto (590067) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731296)

You can't make it thicker just to make people feel better about it. Let's say you can make it half the thickness of a piece of paper and still have the strength you require. If you make it paper-thin instead (or, to increase the fuzzie-wuzzies, more), you increase the mass and weight of the thing by 2 (or more). More to lift in the first place, more to hold up, more mass whipping around the globe should it snap (Minor point), etc.

Re:I just have to ask... (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731363)

Marketing! Come on - slap some aerogel on it, make it look like something the Wal-Mart public would trust!

(I understand the technical part of it ;-) just joshing ya!)

Re:I just have to ask... (1)

dougmc (70836) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731188)

Autobahn by Kraftwerk - even on topic, sort of...
Hope they have enough barf bags ...

Sex Objekt [progarchives.com] is much better Kraftwerk. Autobahn is just ... 22.72 minutes of boredom. (I've got that vinyl somewhere. ..)

I may need to pull it out and hook up the turntable just to remind myself how bad it is, 31 years later. (It's from 1974, right?)

Re:I just have to ask... (1)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731199)

>The longest song in my MP3 collection is 22:43

Bah, that's pretty weak. Manowar's Achilles, Agony and Ecstasy is 28:38, and there are two 19 and one 15 minute songs on Deep Purple's Concerto for Group And Orchestra. Put a bunch of songs like these on a playlist and you've got enough music for the ride.

Space Elevators... (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12731142)

Space elevators are, by far, the biggest form of snake oil in our time. It may become the biggest form of snake oil ever.

You can mod me any way you like but, anyone that invests in a space elevator deserves the loss that they are guaranteed!

Or perhaps... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12731163)

Perhaps it isn't snake oil but, rather smoke and mirrors. I can't help but recall the promise of mining manganese nodules from the sea floor in the 1970's. It turned out to be a cover story for building a spy ship to recover a sunken Soviet submarine. Perhaps the space elevator is a cover story for some other spy operation.

Did you just hear a helicopter? Was it black?

Muzak (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12731150)

According to the website, the elevator will move at 200 mph. Considering that our atmosphere is roughly 380 miles, I'm going to have to listen to Kenny G for almost 2 hours!

Re:Muzak (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731173)

According to the website, the elevator will move at 200 mph. Considering that our atmosphere is roughly 380 miles, I'm going to have to listen to Kenny G for almost 2 hours!

You're going to eat a lot more Kenny G. than that, since the endpoint would have to be in geosynchronous orbit, in order for the cable to stay taut and the station not to fall back on Earth.

Re:Muzak (2, Informative)

evil_mojo_jojo (554131) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731233)

The endpoint is way past geosynchronous orbit, but the counterweight is less than the cable. It's a win because if you put the endpoint out far, you get greater centripidal force for an extra-orbital launch.

kiddies beware... (4, Funny)

moviepig.com (745183) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731181)

I guess the old prank of jumping onto a crowded car and pushing all the buttons would be a no-no...

Protection is a non-issue (4, Insightful)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731183)

It always comes up, but protecting a space elevator is really
simple to solve. Put the base in the ocean, and stick a carrier task force there to protect it.

We already have an example to follow. Fort Knox has a tank combat training ground there, and plenty of tanks stationed there permanently. Good luck trying to raid the place.

Terrorist attacks are dangerous because they could happen anywhere, but that doesn't mean that we can't make a single known place extremely secure from that sort of thing. If it is decided that no aircraft will approach within 100 miles of a space elevator, a single carrier task group could enforce that easily. Revenues from the space elevator would easily pay for the security force too, and it'll still be the cheapest way to get something into space.

Re:Protection is a non-issue (1)

FuturePastNow (836765) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731330)

Too true. Airliners can only go up to 50000 feet or so, well within the range of surface-to-air missiles. You don't even need a carrier, just a ring or two of cheap platforms with SAMs. Bad as it sounds, an investment on the scale of a space elevator would be worth killing a few hundred people over.

Protection costs $$$ (1)

water451 (200460) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731348)

protecting a space elevator is really simple to solve
, except for the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars per day [rand.org] for that aircraft carrier, not including support ships. I wouldn't just assume that the revenues would easily pay for it - we're talking about a huge up-front investment (during construction) to recover.

Re:Protection costs $$$ (1)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731420)

The up-front investment would be paid by governments, and taxpayers if necessary. It would be a military force, and developing that is usually something government does. No reason why the cost can't be paid back though.

And hundreds of thousands of dollars a day is nothing at all when you consider that a single launch of a single rocket is millions of dollars. A space elevator has the advantage of volume, and the advantage of high profit margins. They could pay for it easily.

Re:Protection is a non-issue (1)

LordPhantom (763327) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731356)

Yes, because we all want to go into space by first traveling via OCEAN LINER.

Nevermind the problems and cost ineffiencies in getting space station parts / shuttle/spaceship parts onto a floating platform.

Let's also forget underwater warfare... sonar is -good- but it's not perfect.

Fort Knox? C'mon now.

Re:Protection is a non-issue (1)

ZorbaTHut (126196) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731379)

Of course, the same problem that Fort Knox would have still applies here, and more so - bring a car (suitcase) with a home-built nuke over, park it moderately close (close enough to be close, far enough away to not arouse suspicion), set timer for 24 hours, catch Greyhound bus (escape boat) to a location a few states away. Boomy. I suspect it would be harder on the elevator, but it also sounds more vulnerable to large-scale explosives than Fort Knox.

Not like there's anything we can do about that.

Re:Protection is a non-issue (1)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731448)

If things reach that level, the space elevator becomes something that is secondary in importance to protecting civilization itself. Any nuke going off is a threat to much more than a space elevator, so in that case, you protect that bigger thing and not just the smaller thing.

Caution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12731184)

If you travel to fast you become vaporware.

Nothing new under the sun (0, Troll)

a_greer2005 (863926) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731186)

This has been tried before, it was called the Tower of Babble,grab a Bible and see how the story ends...

Re:Nothing new under the sun (2, Funny)

pentalive (449155) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731374)

I don't think the space elevator is quite as ambitious as the tower of Babble, After all the space elevator only goes to orbit, not to Heaven.

Going to the moon (1)

3770 (560838) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731206)

I find this technology very intriguing. But it took me a long time to realise that they are serious. First time I heard about this I had to check if it was April first.

Anyway, the most interesting thing I heard in this interview was that they said that if you let the elevator go up really far, close to the counter weight, and let go of an object there, it would fly faster than with conventional rockets because of the centrifugal motion.

So that could be used to fling stuff from earth really fast. And since the earth angle varies quite significantly it can be sent to a a great different places.

There is still a large number of directions that one of these objects can't go too, but, still, pretty cool.

Re:Going to the moon (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731251)

I find this technology very intriguing. But it took me a long time to realise that they are serious. First time I heard about this I had to check if it was April first.

They're serious, and poised to succeed just as well as the dozens of people and companies who have been studying the problem for decades.

The space elevator won't happen in your lifetime. Just like the permanent moon base, the SDI and hundreds of such grandiose and vaporous projects. The only one I've seen completed that I didn't think would ever happen is the French-English channel tunnel, and even that was a pretty tame project compared to the space elevator.

*NIX and no Real (2, Informative)

zp (68133) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731217)

% mplayer -ao pcm:file=20050603_totn_03.wav 'rtsp://real.npr.na-central.speedera.net:80/real.n pr.na-central/totn/20050603_totn_03.rm'

Should work if one has mplayer but does not have realplayer.

This is sad (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12731237)

Once upon a time we were inspired by the likes of Robert A Heinlein, imagining space travel to distant planets using nuclear rocket engines. Nowadays space travel is inspired by the ideas from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Greatest story ever! (1)

poormanjoe (889634) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731259)

The last time I saw skyhooks actually being used was on PBN! http://www.paintball-net.com/ [paintball-net.com]

a padded multiterrain insulated suit[skyhooks][refracto]{=DavidRM=}{=Dug=}{=Psycho ticfairytale=}{=FireDrake=}{=The Lost Souls=}

Interesting interview (3, Informative)

drgath159 (821707) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731277)

Covered a lot of the questions that have popped into my head while reading the previous 947 Slashdot/Space-elevator articles.

Highlights
- Location? Straight south of California near the equator.
- Timeframe? 15+ years
- What if an airliner flew into it? Pretty much screwed. But the location is 400 miles from any air route so shouldn't be a problem.
- How long would it take to get up? A few hours.
- Wouldn't it be a huge lightning rod? Yeah, but that area of the world does not have lightning, so shouldn't be a problem.
- Wouldn't the car that goes up the cable just pull it down and not crawl up it? Yes, but the car is only a few tons and the weight of the cable and weight on the other end was something like a couple thousand tons. So shouldn't be a problem.

There are a lot of "shouldn't be a problem"'s in there that one of them will be a problem. Exciting technology though.

This is all good and fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12731288)

But I'm waiting for the Space Escalator.

Re:This is all good and fine (1)

daniil (775990) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731412)

Stairway to Heaven vs Skyhooks -- hell, i know which one i'd choose and i wouldn't even think twice about it.

No free lunch (1)

gvc (167165) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731298)

Have you ever run up a flight or two of stairs? Just getting going isn't good enough. You need a sustained input of energy to keep going.

This elevator will propel its payload straight up at 200 mile/h, using solar power? Those are mighty powerful solar panels.

In a nutshell, you have to supply escape-velocity energy to any mass you drag up the thing. No two ways about it.

Re:No free lunch (2, Informative)

yotto (590067) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731328)

Sorry, but you're wrong.

The current solution to the problem you outlined is to shoot the thing with a laser (a big frickin' laser) on the ground. Keep the laser trained on the elevator car, and on the car convert that light to the electricity you need to crawl up the line.

I wouldn't be surprised if some day some smart engineer figures out a way to use the potential energy of a down-moving car to supply some of the energy to an up-moving car (Not all, of course, gotta pay mister Entropy).

skiers know... (2, Interesting)

kencurry (471519) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731301)

What it's like to get stuck mid-air on a long lift.

God help you if the elevator goes on the fritz in the midst of your ride!

What about space debris? (2, Interesting)

d474 (695126) | more than 8 years ago | (#12731342)

What kind of damage can the ribbon sustain if a small meteorite or space junk impact it? No big deal or total failure?
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