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Space Elevator vs Wildlife

CmdrTaco posted more than 7 years ago | from the check-and-mate dept.

307

An anonymous reader writes "The longest test yet of the technology that might one day lead to space elevators has revealed some unusual problems. From the article: "There were several unexpected encounters with wildlife. More than a dozen insect egg colonies had been laid on the tether and curious bats flew around the balloons, apparently attracted by the sound made by the tether's vibrations. Late in the test, swallows were also seen swooping down on the balloons, possibly to sip the morning dew on their surfaces." Maybe all the critters just want to go to space too."

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307 comments

Just goes to show... (4, Insightful)

general scruff (938598) | more than 7 years ago | (#16212999)

How adaptable nature really is. Other than things that really destroy an environment, all human interaction and structure isn't harmful. Who knows what type of new eco system could be in the works!

Don't Lose Sight of Our Goal! (5, Funny)

Digital Vomit (891734) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213005)

No, you fools! It's mother nature trying to keep us from leaving this planet! She wants to take us down with her!

"Oooh, so Mother Nature needs a favor?! Well maybe she should have thought of that when she was besetting us with droughts and floods and poison monkeys! Nature started the fight for survival, and now she wants to quit because she's losing. Well I say, hard cheese." - C. M. Burns

Re:Don't Lose Sight of Our Goal! (2, Funny)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213277)

No, she's just trying to make a bunch of cheesy 60s/70s space horror flics

"SWALLOWS... IN SPACE!!!"

Followed by:

"BATS... IN SPACE!!!"

Summing up the series with:

"INSECT EGGS... IN SPACE!!!"

You have to end the title "IN SPACE!!!"

Don't forget the most recent cheesy movie (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16213425)

"SNAKES . . . IN SPACE", and can the porcine Muppets be far behind?

Re:Don't forget the most recent cheesy movie (0)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213603)

"SNAKES . . . IN SPACE", and can the porcine Muppets be far behind?


Bork, bork, bork! Oops, wrong skit.

"There's motha f**in snakes in the motha f**in space!"

Re:Don't forget the most recent cheesy movie (1)

quigonn (80360) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213693)

"Snakes in space" will be the sequel to "Snakes on a plane" (btw, probably the most stupid movie title ever, reminds me of "The Bus That Couldn't Slow Down" aka Homer Simpson's title of "Speed").

Re:Don't Lose Sight of Our Goal! (0)

aplusjimages (939458) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213493)

"BALLS . . . IN SPACE!!!" the sequel to "SPACEBALLS"

Re:Don't Lose Sight of Our Goal! (4, Funny)

hcob$ (766699) | more than 7 years ago | (#16214089)

"BALLS . . . IN SPACE!!!" the sequel to "SPACEBALLS"
I believe the title you are looking for is "Spaceballs 2: The Search For More Money". But that's ok, we'll just have to confiscate this...

*yoinks geek badge*

There, everything's fine now.

Re:Don't Lose Sight of Our Goal! (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 7 years ago | (#16214007)

The big one is yet to come.... snakes will crawl up the tether using their sneaky snaky ways and then

SNAKES... IN SPACE!!!!

Re:Don't Lose Sight of Our Goal! (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#16214213)

well, more likely some vipers will try to mate with it... They do kinda stand an wiggle before/during, it's an honest mistake.

Re:Don't Lose Sight of Our Goal! (1)

xs650 (741277) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213805)

"No, you fools! It's mother nature trying to keep us from leaving this planet! She wants to take us down with her!"

No, mother nature is looking for a good seat to watch us leave so she can wish us good riddance.

Rural Areas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16213025)

The lofty platforms would be especially useful for providing Wi-Fi coverage to rural areas, says company president Michael Laine.

I don't know. I like the idea of having the connection in a rural area - I'm planning of leaving urban life one day. Then again, I'm not so sure if I want to see those things floating around all over the place. It's getting harder and harder to get away from it all.

Re:Rural Areas (3, Insightful)

Vraylle (610820) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213323)

Yes, it's hard to get away from it all when you want to take it with you. :)

Just goes to show... (5, Funny)

Z1NG (953122) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213039)

The space shuttle sucks, a space elevator swallows.

Re:Just goes to show... (5, Funny)

jimmichie (993747) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213151)

No no, the space shuttle blows. ( -5 horribly insensitive)

Re:Just goes to show... (0, Offtopic)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213553)

Y'know I've never friended someone on slashdot before (normally I just ignore the GNAA spammers and the biggots who want to put blacks to sleep), but that was good. I especially liked the self-moderation.

Re:Just goes to show... (2, Funny)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213759)

How the devil does this get moderated informative? I mean, I suppose yes, technically, it's informative (in that I've never friended someone on slashdot). But surely it isn't deserving of a +2 Informative?

Re:Just goes to show... (1)

jacksonj04 (800021) | more than 7 years ago | (#16214119)

It looks like you're on a roll :D

Re:Just goes to show... (1, Interesting)

PatrickThomson (712694) | more than 7 years ago | (#16214123)

And I wouldn't exactly call that informative ...

Since this is an inappropriate mod thread I expect to become interesting.

Re:Just goes to show... (3, Funny)

TempeTerra (83076) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213441)

best of all, the space elevator takes enormous loads!

Re:Just goes to show... (1, Offtopic)

Xichekolas (908635) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213527)

/. really needs a +1 Porn mod...

Of course, once you had it, none of the other mods would get used...

Re:Just goes to show... (0, Offtopic)

testadicazzo (567430) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213777)

I think slashdot needs a "-1 taking a good to mediocre joke and running it into the ground " modifier. Yeah, I know, -1 off topic...

Re:Just goes to show... (1, Funny)

plopez (54068) | more than 7 years ago | (#16214003)

but repetition makes it funny (+1 funny)

Re:Just goes to show... (1)

Chode2235 (866375) | more than 7 years ago | (#16214085)

Yeah, it just gets funnier the more you repeat it.

Re:Just goes to show... (5, Funny)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 7 years ago | (#16214115)

but repetition makes it funny (+1 funny)

Really? Well, let me try:

but repetition makes it funny (+1 funny)

Terrorist Activity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16213041)

"There were several unexpected encounters with wildlife. More than a dozen insect egg colonies had been laid on the tether and curious bats flew around the balloons, apparently attracted by the sound made by the tether's vibrations. Late in the test, swallows were also seen swooping down on the balloons, possibly to sip the morning dew on their surfaces."

Sound like a job for Homeland Security.

swallows (5, Funny)

thhamm (764787) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213067)

Late in the test, swallows were also seen swooping down on the balloons ...

african or european swallows?

Re:swallows (3, Funny)

Kuraikaze_Moss (983068) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213171)

I... I... Don't know!
AIEEE!

Re:swallows (1)

RsG (809189) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213679)

Perhaps they had it on a line? :-)

more importantly (1, Funny)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213827)

did they have any coconuts with them?

Nature (3, Funny)

qwertphobia (825473) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213075)

Nature may abhor a vacuum [imdb.com] , but it loves a space elevator!

Re:Nature (4, Insightful)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213191)

Come on Nature does NOT abhor vacuum. 99.999% of nature IS vacuum.

Re:Nature (2, Informative)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213301)

actually, it's not a complete vacuum. The concept most use as "vacuum" is relative - simlpy a system with less pressure than another.

Re:Nature (1)

Merusdraconis (730732) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213471)

Yeah, if anything nature abhors Amelia Earheart. Which just goes to show that Mother Nature is in fact a misogynist.

Re:Nature (1)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213483)

vaccum in this context is a region of an ecosystem not currently being exploited by an organism.

well, that's what it would tend to mean.

Re:Nature (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213939)

The grandparent's statement still is true then.

Re:Nature (1)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 7 years ago | (#16214033)

Nature still abhors a vacuum. It's just that 0.000...0001% matter is the best she can do with the available resources.

Re:Nature (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 7 years ago | (#16214193)

Not really. When she found out that filling with matter would only get so far, she invented dark energy.

Nature vs Gravity (1)

Damek (515688) | more than 7 years ago | (#16214045)

Not really - nature abhors a vacuum - but gravity loves it.

Re:Nature (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213591)

Aaaawh. I was expecting a "Nature versus the Killer Vacumns" type movie :(

Other issues and possible resolution (5, Interesting)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213097)

Once it gets out into space, wouldn't the long carbon tether become charged?

Like the static we discharge walking around the office, any critters setting up home will be in for a nasty shock.

It's Probably a Valid Concern (5, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213229)

From an industry report [thomasnet.com] I found sometime ago on Slashdot:
Among the small wonders produced by nanotechnology are carbon nanotubes, an advanced material as strong as diamond. These amazing carbon cylinders possess 100 times the tensile strength of steel and are 10,000 times finer than human hair. They are believed to conduct heat better than any other material, and they can also conduct electricity or function as semiconductors.

"Nanotubes are astonishingly promising, and I'm a realist, not an optimist," says Rod Ruoff, a mechanical engineering professor at Northwestern University. "It's a question of making the technology cheap enough." In 2001, only 3 kilograms of the highest quality carbon nanotubes--the single-walled variety--were produced worldwide, each gram worth $300, or 30 times as expensive as gold.

Now, full-scale production of carbon nanotubes is underway at the world's first ever large-scale nanotube factory, built outside Tokyo by the Carbon Nanotech Research Institute, a subsidiary of Japan's Mitsui & Co. The new facility is expected to churn out 10 tons of carbon nanotubes--albeit the lesser quality multi-walled type--a month, and CNRI anticipates the price will be a much more reasonable $80 a kilogram.

These multi-walled carbon nanotubes may not possess all the impressive properties of their single-walled brethren, but mixed with plastics, they make ultrastrong composites or microscale precision parts. Such carbon nanotube-filled plastics are already being used by automakers in fuel lines because they are conductive and can thus be grounded to release static electricity, which can ignite flammable gasoline.
But this LiftPort PDF [nyud.net] states:
One issue brought up is the possibility of discharging the ionosphere. Our calculations based on the size and conductivity of the ribbon and the electrical properties exhibited in our upper atmosphere illustrate that a small area (square meters) around the ribbon could become discharged in the worst conditions. The magnitude of this discharging makes us believe with high confidence that no adverse local or global phenomenon will occur. It also shows that it is unlikely, without considerable effort, that any kind of usable power may be generated by this same method.
I think your concern is valid though for conduction through the ionoshpere or even on the surface of the nano tube/wire -- what would this huge antenna/conducter do to our atmosphere (if anything)?

Re:It's Probably a Valid Concern (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16213297)

I think your concern is valid though for conduction through the ionoshpere or even on the surface of the nano tube/wire -- what would this huge antenna/conducter do to our atmosphere (if anything)?


Wouldn't it turn it into a giant corona wire, creating ozone? Don't we need more of that anyway? :-)

Re:It's Probably a Valid Concern (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16213775)

Only in the upper atmosphere. Ozone is actually toxic.

Not carbon nanotubes, boron nitride nanotubes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16213701)

Google "Boron Nitride Nanotubes" - while they will still function as semiconductors, there may be a way to deal with this (but you'll need to look it up yourself :P )

Re:It's Probably a Valid Concern (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213855)

Worse yet, some exploitative bastard might try to harness all that energy.

Re:It's Probably a Valid Concern (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213983)

Sounds like that paper answered your question. That is, not much will happen.

Re:It's Probably a Valid Concern (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16214135)

Sounds like that paper answered your question. That is, not much will happen.
From what I read of it, it sounded more like he sidestepped the issue and chose his words carefully. Didn't give any direct research to prove it. That worries me and leaves it as a valid and open issue in my mind.

Re:It's Probably a Valid Concern (1)

The_Mr_Flibble (738358) | more than 7 years ago | (#16214057)

Didn't NASA conduct (hah) an experiment that used a microsatelite attached via a tether to the shuttle and as one was placed in a higher orbit than the other it travelled faster and produced an electrical charge ?

Re:Other issues and possible resolution (1)

_Swank (118097) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213247)

would they really get a shock since they wouldn't be grounded? isn't this how they are able to sit on telephone wires without issue? or am i just making stuff up (i freely admit to knowing nothing about electricity)?

Re:Other issues and possible resolution (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213625)

i freely admit to knowing nothing about electricity

Well isn't the answer you're just making stuff up regardless of whether or not what you're making up is true? :P

Re:Other issues and possible resolution (2, Informative)

painQuin (626852) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213705)

telephone wires are no problem... it's the power lines you're thinking of, and the reason they can sit on them is because they only sit on one. If something touches both parts of a pair of power cables, zap.

Re:Other issues and possible resolution (4, Informative)

Tim C (15259) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213927)

Strictly, you don't need to be grounded in order to recieve a shock, you need to have one part of your body (eg a hand) touching an area of high voltage, while another (eg a foot) touches an area of low(er) potential. That creates a potential difference between the two points, which enables current to flow; it is this current that causes the shock. Birds can sit on power lines because the potential difference between their feet is tiny, and so any current that does flow is insignificant.

Now the situation is a little different if the object is charged. Then, when you touch it, charge will tend to flow from it to you (as you are uncharged). If you're touching an area of lower potential, you'll get a shock, just as the GP mentions. If not, then you'll simply become charged. What happens then depends on a number of factors; perhaps you'll bleed the charge off naturally, perhaps you'll retain some of it until you ground yourself and get a delayed shock (just as you do when touching metal after charging yourself on carpet, etc).

I suppose if the thing is charged enough, then the short-lived flow of charge into the body could deliver enough of a shock to be problematic, but I'm an (ex-)physicist, not a physician, so I don't know for sure.

Re:Other issues and possible resolution (1)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213331)

Probably, and I bet there will be protections to prevent this to become too nasty since they wouldn't want the shocks to harm expensive equipments or workers.

And you can see everyday birds on power lines. They charge and discharge tens of kV 100 or 120 times each second and that doesn't even hurt them. Remember, static charge can be dangerous, but almost only when you act as a conductor between a big charge and the ground.

Re:Other issues and possible resolution (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213373)

Unlikely. For a shock to occur, energy has to flow. Energy only flows if there is a difference in current. Else birds sitting on high voltage wires would get roasted.

Re:Other issues and possible resolution (0, Flamebait)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213417)

Once it gets out into space, wouldn't the long carbon tether become charged?

Once people see what it would cost to build it, you can bet it will become POLITICALLY charged.

-Eric

Re:Other issues and possible resolution (-1, Troll)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213671)

Naaah, don't worry. Bush will just siphon off money from the New Orleans damns to help build it.

Re:Other issues and possible resolution (1)

PhysicsPhil (880677) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213995)

Once it gets out into space, wouldn't the long carbon tether become charged?

Like the static we discharge walking around the office, any critters setting up home will be in for a nasty shock.


The wildlife will be fine, for the same reason that they don't get toasted when sitting on power line.

Willy Wonka.. (1)

s31523 (926314) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213107)

... never had any problems with his glass elevator!

Re:Willy Wonka.. (2, Funny)

Apocalypse111 (597674) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213307)

Yes, but the Wonkavator was powered by love. Love, dammit! As Americans, we are somewhat lacking in that particular natural resource, so the technology wouldn't work for us. However, if left as it is, the border security problems could one day allow enough Latinos into the US to solve this problem, raising our love-per-capita counts to the levels necessary to power such a device, hell, a whole fleet of such devices! Imagine, a Wonkavator in every garage, and a bunch of molten candy in every oven... the new American dream!

Buckle and deformation problems (4, Interesting)

radarsat1 (786772) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213147)

The team learned that if the tether is pulled hard by wind, it starts to buckle and deform slightly, creating crinkles. The robot climber hit these crinkles and could not proceed because they made the tether too thick for it to handle.

"We broke our robot by doing this," Laine says. "It's the kind of failure we never would have learned had we only been doing 6-hour tests." Future designs will have to incorporate sensors to tell the robot when it is about to encounter varying thicknesses.
Strong but thin


Hm... do you think that if your tether is beginning to BUCKLE AND DEFORM, you might have a slightly more fundamental problem than just needing to redesign the robot?

Well, I'm sure they're aware of it. But this kind of thing probably won't become more obvious until they do a 6-month test, I guess. Or 6-years. But the potential for your tether to break off eventually is probably going to be a slight drawback.

Re:Buckle and deformation problems (0)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213255)

I dont get this buckling part of that sentence. The tether is in tension. And further the wind is pulling it. So it is still in tension. Tensile loads dont cause buckling. Only compressive loads can cause buckling. I can understand the deformation part, though I image the deformation is simply elongation.

Ok, if there is some bending, then one part of the cross section will be in tension and the other side will be in compression. But if you superimpose the tension in the cable to whatever minor bending that is happening due to wind it cant change the stress from tension to compression. So there is more to the crinkling than what they are admitting.

Re:Buckle and deformation problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16213517)

Or maybe the man they quoted was a PR guy, not an engineer and was paraphrasing. Or maybe they were simply not as exact about their language as you desire.

Joker. (1)

DoctorDyna (828525) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213179)

He said it best. "You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, meh, hehe he...hehehehe...."

Time..... (0, Redundant)

jackharrer (972403) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213189)

Think how long would it take to travel in that lift to geo-stationary orbit (36000km). Let's say that average lift travels at 2.5m/s. And those are very fast lifts...

Do the math by yourself

jackharrer

Re:Time..... (5, Informative)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213365)

actually, they'd be able to travel faster because there would be more accelleration time. It would take just over ten seconds at 1G (2G force on the passangers) to get to a velocity of 100meters per second, at which point you have 360,000 seconds, or 100 hours. Now with a lower accelleration, but a longer acceleration, that could be cut down significantly. Once acceleration stops, you are back to 1G (minus the effects of your distance from earth).

Re:Time..... (1)

Patrik_AKA_RedX (624423) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213529)

The correct term is space Freight Elevator. Secondly they can go a lot faster.

Sing to the to the tune of If "You Think I'm Sexy" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16213221)

Do you want a Space Elevator
Yeah, I think I'm Sexy
Come On Baby let me know
I just want to ride it
All the way to space
and see all the sexy ladies Yeah!

Environmental Impact works Both Ways (0)

Shadowmist (57488) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213259)


  That these problems were unexpected betrays a severe lack of environmental awareness. Technology isn't used in an empty space, you need to take into account all environmental factors including wildlife, as well as the environmental factors of heat, humidity, wind shear, long term stress and fatigue. Provide a high platform and high flying birds will nest on it. (Or run into it)

Nature is the ultimate check on hubris as she either gives you walls you can't surmount, tests you constantly for weakness, or patiently waits for your first fatal mistake.

Re:Environmental Impact works Both Ways (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213325)

Nature is the ultimate check on hubris as she either gives you walls you can't surmount,

Dont anthropomorphize Nature. She is beyond your feeble powers to add, detract or anthropomorphise her. :-)

They broke the robot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16213265)

The robot that will climb the tether and reinflate the balloons broke. From bends and crinkles in the cable. It couldn't handle the different thickness. So it broke.

Why are these people to stupid that they build an expensive device with such a critical failure. What did they discuss at meetings?

Manager: So, what thickness cable is it?

Engineer: Specs say 10mm.

Manager: Good, make a robot that can climb a 10mm cable.

Engineer: Should we build in a fault tolerance of 5% or so, in case the cable varies?

Manager: Why?

Engineer: So the blasted thing doesn't break on it's first attempt.

Or was the engineer the idiot, and lazy to boot, who decided to build a piece of shit that could only handle the exact dimension the cable specs stated?

And this reminds me of the show a few seasons back on Discovery or History channel about the pyramids. There is this long open shaft going up from one room, and they want to send a robot up it to see what it is. They also ignored the fact that the initial conditions may change as the robot makes its journey. They damn near lost a $3 million robot in there. It was a good thing the video cable connection was stronger then the neuron pathways in their brain.

think of the pirates (1)

tkavanaugh (863507) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213343)

won't someone for once think of the pirates the elevator would put out of work, well atleast they would be unemployed until interstellar space travel is invented...

Simplify (1)

e2ka (708498) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213371)

FTFA:

If the platforms were used as Wi-Fi stations, robots would one day be needed to climb up the tethers to deliver new helium tanks for the balloons (Image: LiftPort Group)

Or how about a tube running along the tether? Or just using a normal tower for this? I don't see how there can be profit in using a tether system as a glorified radio tower.

Re:Simplify (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213697)

Thing is, if the elevator's there and that space isn't doing anything, why not whack a few WIFI stations onto it? What's the worst that could happen?

Re:Simplify (1)

Itsacon (967006) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213921)

The worst? You could be lost in space, and STILL have to try and get WiFi to work on Windows XP... *shudders*

Re:Simplify (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 7 years ago | (#16214069)

1. Cheaper to construct
2. Much higher in the air for better coverage

robot tests are dumb (3, Insightful)

P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213391)

We aren't even 100 orders of magnitude close to having a tether material that work, yet people are spending their time on robot designs that are a trivial problem. Why don't these contests focus on high alitutde tethers?

Re:robot tests are dumb (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16213445)

We are within 100 orders of magnitude. 100 orders of magnitude is 10^100 or a Googol. My tennis shoe laces are this close as well.

Thanks.

Re:robot tests are dumb (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16214039)

NASA just called. They want to buy your shoelaces

Re:robot tests are dumb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16214097)

For $10 million dollars?

60,000 mile tether - not possible (1, Interesting)

us7892 (655683) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213403)

This idea just doesn't seem possible. A 60,000 mile tether, strong enough to carry a satellite sitting on a robot elevator all the way up into space. And then successfully deploying the satellite off the elevator. And this would be cheaper than rockets that send satellites into orbit now?

A space elevator sounds great, it just seems far-fetched. A 100 meter test. Only 96,560,540 more meters to go.

Re:60,000 mile tether - not possible (1)

ebassi (591699) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213891)

And this would be cheaper than rockets that send satellites into orbit now?

as the elevator would stay exactly where it is and as the elevator robot would be reused, it is obviously cheaper on the long run. right now, sending a kg worth of stuff in space costs ~1000 USD; a space elevator would bring down the cost to 10 USD/kg.

and I won't even mention the secondary gains obtaining when developing a space elevator, in terms of technology and manufacturing breakthroughs.

A 100 meter test

the 100 meters test followed a 1.6 km test, so it's more like 59.999 more miles to go.

Re:60,000 mile tether - not possible (5, Insightful)

VoidEngineer (633446) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213957)

This idea just doesn't seem possible. A 60,000 mile tether, strong enough to carry a satellite sitting on a robot elevator all the way up into space. And then successfully deploying the satellite off the elevator. And this would be cheaper than rockets that send satellites into orbit now?

A space elevator sounds great, it just seems far-fetched. A 100 meter test. Only 96,560,540 more meters to go.


Ah, I see that your glass is half empty. While you say "A 100 meter test. Only 96,560,540 more meters to go" implying it's impossible, we say "A 100 meter test! Only 96,560,540 more meters to go" with the idea that we're simply going to do that 100 meter test 965,600 more times. Yes, that oversimplifies things, but it's a half glass full kind of perspective.

Consider: As I understand it, the wiring in the Golden Gate Bridge, if layed end-to-end, would stretch around the globe three times over. Considering the circumfrence of the earth is something like 40,000km, that would mean that we've already built bridge structures that incorporate over 100,000km of cabling. Granted, the design of the space elevator is completely novel; but this stuff is based on modern engineering understanding.

People get the scale of this whole project wrong. The initial ribbon would need to be small and slender and thin for weight purpouses of the initial ribbon. After that's established, we would start adding mass to the space elevator, until it's a megastructure, not unlike the Golden Gate Bridge. Eventually, the dream is to create a verticle subway system of sorts. Access to space would be cheaper than rockets once the space elevator was built up to the scale of the Golden Gate Bridge or the New York City Subway System.

Putting it in perspective (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16213413)

The pollution (and therefore environmental damage) caused by using a rocket to put one ton of payload into space is about a zillion times what would be caused by using the space elevator for the same load. The problem is that the space elevator would be so much cheaper that many more tons of stuff would be put into orbit. So, the total pollution would probably end up being more. On the other hand, we have many more people trying to get into space now. It's probably just a few years before we have at least one private company putting stuff into orbit so the pollution will happen anyway.

Trying to put everything into perspective, the elevator is probably the least offensive solution in terms of the environment.

Re:Putting it in perspective (3, Funny)

Gospodin (547743) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213839)

The pollution (and therefore environmental damage) caused by using a rocket to put one ton of payload into space is about a zillion times what would be caused by using the space elevator for the same load.

Hey, thanks for putting that in perspective.

Danger Signs (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16213507)

If the dolphins start trying to jump on these things we might need to start worrying.

What about Airplanes? (2, Insightful)

aplusjimages (939458) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213519)

If these space elevators do take off, would they need their own air traffic control at each one? Imagine a plane clipping one of these things while people are going up? Tower of Terror [go.com] would lose all it's business.

am i the only person (0, Flamebait)

acroyear (5882) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213557)

who thinks the whole "space elevator" concept is just downright STUPID?

Re:am i the only person (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16213833)

Yes. (stuff to fool the lameness filter!)

I guess so, ya clod. (1)

crovira (10242) | more than 7 years ago | (#16214019)

Think of applying all of the force of the shuttle's engines to moving, instead of all that action/reaction cloud of steam and pollution.

Before OBL's little performance piece of Arab street theatre, I used to work in the WTC and I lived across the steet in Battery Park City.

I loved that my comute was 1,000 feet in two directions: back & forth and up & down.

Now, I could live around 4,000 miles away and still take the elevator for about as long as I, uh oh. Walking that far back & forth would be a bitchin' commute in the mornings.

Re:am i the only person (2, Insightful)

dswartz (749795) | more than 7 years ago | (#16214073)

I think it is talked about far more than it should be considering it is little more than science fiction. Prove to me it is the focus of substantial research and I will reconsider.

Ants (5, Interesting)

StarfishOne (756076) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213619)

Crazy thought:

Assuming ants can climb up the elevator, I wonder which altitude they could reach, given the fact that they supposedly don't need a lot of oxygen with their small bodies. (I know that ants don't have lungs and breathe through tiny pores, but still)

Wonkavator (3, Funny)

urbonix (644718) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213703)

The snozberries taste like snozberries.

Starship Troopers Movies (1)

Ann Coulter (614889) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213883)

Isn't this how Earth aracnids manage to enter space and mutate. Once we have interstellar travel, we might reencounter another space faring species from Earth.

If they only knew... (2, Funny)

smokin_juan (469699) | more than 7 years ago | (#16213905)

I would've guessed that wildlife would've been their last worry. I didn't read the article, but did they mention how a space elevator would WICK THE EARTH'S ATMOSPHERE INTO OUTER SPACE! First person to try and build one of these things is gonna get a swift kick straight to the nuts, so help me...

Re:If they only knew... (1)

einnar2000 (985070) | more than 7 years ago | (#16214215)

Is that the same way that a stick in a glass would wick the water right out of the glass?

I'd think that physics would have something to say about that. The same force that keeps the atmosphere in place during the course of normal business isn't going to all of a sudden hurl the atmosphere into outer space just because there is now a line leaving the atmosphere.

A quick, cheap way to put up a comm grid ... (1)

constantnormal (512494) | more than 7 years ago | (#16214021)

I can see tethered cellular towers as well as WiFi towers (802.11n, something with some range) at elevations of a few thousand feet -- high enough to give them excellent line-of-sight coverage, but below air traffic corridors.

In situations like Katrina, or western wildfires, these could reinstate the communications grid very quickly and at minimal cost.

All they need as payloads would be a solar cell array and batteries for power (or run a power cable up the tether), a lightweight omnidirectional antenna, and a lightweight communications processor/router/transceiver that seeks out neighboring nodes in the communications grid, joins the grid and relays ground signals to the self-organizing grid. At some point (or points), the grid connects to the ground-based network. Eventually, the helium would leak out and they would settle back to earth, being reeled in by the tether anchors, as slack was detected in the tethers. They could then be replaced/re-filled and sent back up. My guess is that these cost for these would be well under $5K per node, which is a lot cheaper than a conventional cell tower.

No better way to drive the technology forward than to start using it commercially.

I for one... (2, Funny)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 7 years ago | (#16214077)

Welcome our new Irradiated Insect Eating Mutant Swallow-Bat Hybrid Overlords

Luckily we will be able to shoot them off the elevator with the laser beam that powers to climber ;-p

The structure itself is way less problem.... (4, Insightful)

CFD339 (795926) | more than 7 years ago | (#16214159)

..when you compare it to the support city that will spring up around the base of any such endeavor.

I'm not saying that is a bad thing, btw. If done will, maybe this technology would be cleaner overall than rockets or some kind of mythical antigravity fusion powered jet-pack thing.
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