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Canadians Vie for Space Elevator Victory

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the to-the-moon-alice dept.

99

unc0nn3ct3d writes to mention a CBC article about some plucky Canadian teams planning to go for NASA's space elevator challenge. From the article: "Teams based in Saskatoon, Vancouver, Edmonton and Toronto are among thousands of space enthusiasts expected to converge on a desert site in Las Cruces, N.M., on Friday and Saturday for the X-Prize Cup, a festival mounted by the X-Prize Foundation ... The competitors are gearing up for the Spaceward Foundation's Space Elevator Challenge, which requires them to surmount technical obstacles in the development of a new type of vehicle that would take people and cargo from Earth into space."

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99 comments

Doesn't mention bringing them back though... (5, Funny)

Channard (693317) | more than 7 years ago | (#16534818)

'Hey, how come there's no 'call space elevator' button at this end of the space station?'

Re:Doesn't mention bringing them back though... (4, Funny)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 7 years ago | (#16534934)

Sounds like my father. He's always more then happy to explain how to get somewhere (with instructions like "go to the end of road X and then turn left." And yet he never gives me instructions on how to get home, I think he's been trying to give me a hint for some time now.

Re:Doesn't mention bringing them back though... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16536478)

And after 10 years, you are now only getting them? I want you out of the house NOW!

Re:Doesn't mention bringing them back though... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16536968)

Or maybe he assumes the guy is smart enough to realize how to get back given the directions? i.e. turn right on street X and go home?

Re:Doesn't mention bringing them back though... (1)

Andrew Kismet (955764) | more than 7 years ago | (#16540824)

That never works, especially here in England. One-way roads aplenty mean no inverse journeys.

Shhhh!.(why no mention of return) (3, Funny)

maroberts (15852) | more than 7 years ago | (#16535006)

They have a list of candidates for a one way trip.
George Bush, Tony Blair ....

Re:Shhhh!.(why no mention of return) (2, Funny)

armchair99 (745329) | more than 7 years ago | (#16536574)

They have a list of candidates for a one way trip. George Bush, Tony Blair ....
...Barbara Streisand, Alex Baldwin...

Yes but (0, Offtopic)

gwbennett (988163) | more than 7 years ago | (#16535620)

does it run Linux? I for one welcome our elevator building overlords. In Soviet Russia elevators build YOU. etcetera

This is only the beginning. (2, Funny)

ari wins (1016630) | more than 7 years ago | (#16535692)

The Vancouver team will win, I have no doubt. Their best minds will be hard at work trying to design not only the space elevator, but also the world's first orbital growhouse. This will lead to a boom in the Canadian space industry, as the sale of..ahem..alternative tobacco products skyrockets them into superiority.

Re:This is only the beginning. (1)

Tsian (70839) | more than 7 years ago | (#16541396)

When the great grow-house minds from Surrey combine with the scientists from Vancouver... actually I'm not sure what will happen, but I'm reminded of the advertisement for the New Westminster Condo that read "Living here means never having to say you're Surrey"

Seriously though, I wish them all luck. If Canada wins this it will be an nice addition to producing the Canadarm.

Re:Doesn't mention bringing them back though... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16538000)

Our space elevator was sold to produce charlie and the chocolate factory :/

nationality (1)

macadamia_harold (947445) | more than 7 years ago | (#16534830)

Canadians Vie for Space Elevator Victory: The competitors are gearing up for the Spaceward Foundation's Space Elevator Challenge, which requires them to surmount technical obstacles in the development of a new type of vehicle that would take people and cargo from Earth into space.

Who knew that Willy Wonka was Canadian?

Canadian Laser Powered Climber (4, Interesting)

iendedi (687301) | more than 7 years ago | (#16534966)

From TFA:
The machine is being entered in one of the two parts of the elevator competition, known as the Power Beam Challenge, in which competitors build a machine that can climb at a rate of at least one metre per second up a ribbon suspended nearly 61 metres (200 feet) from a crane. The climber must be powered by a light source.

"We developed a high-powered laser to power our climber," Ruszowski said.
Which is all good and well, I suppose, for a cable suspended from a crane. But what happens when the space-elevator ribbon has to cut through the entire atmosphere of the earth, weather and all? Tracking the lateral movement of the elevator precisely in unpredictable weather does not seem trivial to me.

Do any of you actually believe we are close to being able to produce one of these monsters? I am guessing we are still thirty years away from the appropriate tech.

Re:Canadian Laser Powered Climber (4, Informative)

oldelpaso (851825) | more than 7 years ago | (#16535702)

I'm highly sceptical about articles making optimistic claims about space elevators, of which there have been several of late, usually involving carbon nanotubes. Most of the time the theoretical strength of a cable constructed from carbon nanotubes is used, but this ignores the fact that the cable will inevitably have construction defects, as it would need to be about 10^5 km long. A decent analysis is provided in a recent paper I read: http://www.iop.org/Select/abstract/-group=subject/ -groupval=100/0953-8984/18/33/S14 [iop.org]

Re:Canadian Laser Powered Climber (2, Informative)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 7 years ago | (#16538012)

That paper starts with the assumption of 100 nm long nanotubes, which we may be able to improve on, and predicts a 70% strength reduction from the theoretical maximum.

Which just means the cable has to taper more. No matter what, any sane civil engineer would have designed it with at least a safety factor of 3.

Re:Canadian Laser Powered Climber (1)

h2g2bob (948006) | more than 7 years ago | (#16535766)

The main problem with building one of these things now is the lack of suitable materils for the cable. ALL currently known materials would break under their own weight.

Re:Canadian Laser Powered Climber (1, Informative)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 7 years ago | (#16536012)

ALL currently known materials would break under their own weight.

Which is why one length of cable simply will not do. Instead the cable must get thicker as you move upwards, so that each strand only carries a small enough amount of weight. Honestly, a 1000km cable of this kind is more than within ourability to construct, but getting all 1000km of its ever increasing frame into space will be the trickiest part. Keeping it up there will be the next.

Space elevators are a "look good on paper" plan, as long as its a green paper. Hypersonic is the way to go into space.

Re:Canadian Laser Powered Climber (2, Informative)

christoofar (451967) | more than 7 years ago | (#16536266)

You're assuming a space elevator needs a cable for the entire length of the elevator.

It's an engineering problem like the World Trade Center. It was impractical to have elevator shafts running up the entire building (in the WTC, I believe there was only one shaft that did so).

In the case of a space elevator... why not temporarily "lock" the car at a certain height, then have a mechanism unhoist the cable and change it to another hoist motor? (repeat as necessary)

The net effect that the elevator would have to "rest" at certain periods on the way up and back down. A zero-G elevator would need to use friction... so the last part of the trip would just be using toothed-gears along a similar linear tooth track.

Re:Canadian Laser Powered Climber (4, Interesting)

mdfst13 (664665) | more than 7 years ago | (#16537578)

The difference between an elevator in a skyscraper and a space elevator is that the elevator in the skyscraper has a building around it while the space elevator is just a big cable. The space elevator is held up by the fact that part of the cable (possibly with a counterweight at the end) is actually far enough away that angular momentum is pulling it *away* from the earth. It's the tension between gravity pulling it down and angular momentum pulling it up that makes it work. Break that into segments and some segments will go away from the earth while others go down. If you tie the segments together, then you just have one long cable again (with joins that are either heavier or weaker than the rest of the cable; if we had a lighter and stronger material, we'd just make the whole cable out of it).

The World Trade Center system worked because the building was there and they attached the segments to the building. A space elevator is problematic because we simply don't have the ability to build a building that tall to hold up segments (if we did, we'd just make the building the cable and crawl up the side). Each segment would have to be self-supporting.

The minimum cable length (to be self supporting) is determined by the angular velocity of the earth, the radius from the center of the earth to the cable mount, and the mass of the earth. There is no way to make a shorter cable that is self supporting.

Your solution requires something to hold up the segments. We don't have that something. We are somewhat closer to being able to build a single cable of that length than we are to building a segmented solution (which requires something like anti-gravity). Further, if we did have the tech to build a segmented solution, we probably wouldn't need to do so. With anti-gravity, we'd just float up -- no elevator cable needed.

I think that what's confusing you is that in buildings, the cable pulls up the car (which is just a big box). In a space elevator, the "cable" has a role more like that of the elevator shaft or the rails of an incline. The elevator "car" is propelled by something else. Maybe they should change the name to something more static, like pillar, shaft, or stem.

Multi-stage space elevator? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16541026)

Why <i>not</i> have a multi-stage space elevator? Multiple lines sharing load down to a junction, and one line dropping from there. An upside-down tapered building in tension. ;)

Put the junction just inside the atmosphere, and you might float it as a high-altitude balloon. Which might simplify deployment - drop the high part, float up the low part, and join.

Multiple lines makes space-section ribbon failure non-critical (for the elevator at least - if you happen to be climbing the particular ribbon... you still need your parachute). Perhaps you could also hang a backup lower ribbon from the junction, to avoid downtime. And where you have multiple ribbons, you can climb up/down spares rather than float/dropping and chasing them.

So what problems? Possible destructive interference between multiple ribbons. Junction complexity and weight. But simplification of deployment and repair logistics might be worth it?

Re:Multi-stage space elevator? (1)

tritium6 (804406) | more than 7 years ago | (#16549420)

Did you read the parent? For the part just inside the atmosphere, how will you keep it aloft? By hot air balloon? If so, why not just attach the payload to the hot air balloon? For any method of keeping the non-orbital lower section aloft, you might as well just attach that lift to the payload directly.

Re:Canadian Laser Powered Climber (1)

AaronLawrence (600990) | more than 7 years ago | (#16536732)

I don't think many people are suggesting it's close. It's a medium term investment. One thing's for sure, if we don't try, it won't happen. It's like lots of other technology, you try it out and maybe it turns out feasible after lots of incremental improvements, or maybe it doesn't.

And on tracking a laser to a climber? Sounds pretty doable actually, given that modern optical telescopes compensate optically for air movement, without the luxury of a close physical object which can tell you it's position and be designed for easy targetting.

Re:Canadian Laser Powered Climber (1)

iendedi (687301) | more than 7 years ago | (#16537938)

And on tracking a laser to a climber? Sounds pretty doable actually, given that modern optical telescopes compensate optically for air movement, without the luxury of a close physical object which can tell you it's position and be designed for easy targetting.
Please remember, we aren't talking about a laser that makes pretty lights. A laser that imparts power for a climber would be downright dangerous if it misses the power collector on the elevator. combine that with the very considerable lateral movement of the elevator due to weather conditions and the (generally not talked about) problem of photo-reactivity that carbon nanotubes have and you have a recipe for disaster (imagine the elevator cable being disintigrated by the powering laser).

Anyhow, I think this problem is trickier than it looks at first glance.

Re:Canadian Laser Powered Climber (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16536944)

The climbing ribbon will be about a meter wide, thinner than a sheet of paper and 100,000 km long. Only about the first 100 km of ribbon will be affected by atmospheric conditions. Carbon nanotubes will work fine even at their most pessimistic production values.

My only real criticism of the Space Elevator is that we've never built 100,000 km of anything before. But at this point it's largely an engineering issue.
oldelpaso brought up an excellent point (related to mine above) regarding building defects. Ignoring the fact that Pugno is a Space Elevator skeptic, and references himself.

-m

Re:Canadian Laser Powered Climber (4, Informative)

afxgrin (208686) | more than 7 years ago | (#16537434)

The solution for powering a space elevator by laser certainly won't be trivial. It's not like you can just point a laser straight up and it'll hit the receiving dish/antenna/panel ... there will be lateral movement the climber will be undergoing. So there will need to be some type of optics required to guide the beam. These optics have existed for a long time, they just need to be adapted for higher powers and probably wider laser beams. To compensate for refractive index changes in the atmosphere, some form of adaptive optics [wikipedia.org] will be needed. This type of research was done in previous atmospheric studies, and projects like the Airborne Laser [boeing.com].

Right now the largest disadvantage for lasers is the inefficiency in creating electricity from photovoltiacs. The team i'm on - Punkworks [punkworks.ca] is hoping to use a microwave rectenna [wikipedia.org] array to convert 2.4 GHz RF energy into a few hundred watts of electricity. Right now we're lending our transmitter to another team, and have reached a deal to split the prize 50/50 if they win with our transmitter. The reason we're using microwaves is due to the conversion efficiency, there's lots of journal papers on microwave rectenna design indicating a maximum efficiency of 85%. This is a huge improvement over the ~30% you'd get from a solar panel.

My team has yet to compete, and I'm eagerly waiting to hear how our climber performs. Right now they made us move to another location at the test site despite our approved application from the FCC. Apparently the airport doesn't like the idea of us beaming 13 kW of microwaves into the sky ...

unfortunately I'm not in New Mexico for the competition, but a number of my teammates did the 44 hour drive.

Re:Canadian Laser Powered Climber (1)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 7 years ago | (#16537980)

>Tracking the lateral movement of the elevator precisely in unpredictable weather does not seem trivial to me.

Not trivial, true, but we do have billions of dollars worth of R&D results lying around about how to track movin objects with lasers, and that was for the harder problem of tracking objects that didn't want to be tracked.

Quick idea: medium-power guide laser on the car, aimed in the general direction of the power laser. Power laser has a pulsed cycle where it periodically turns off and "listens". During the listening stage the adaptive optics are adjusted to maximize the brightness from the guide laser. Reciprocity means that if it's a good path one way it's a good path the other way: power laser then turns back on using an updated aim point.

Re:Canadian Laser Powered Climber (1)

uvajed_ekil (914487) | more than 7 years ago | (#16543196)

Do any of you actually believe we are close to being able to produce one of these monsters? I am guessing we are still thirty years away from the appropriate tech.

It looks like the tech is there, really, but there is no commercial backing for it, and without money it is a no-go. Current tech can probably produce carbon nanotubes appropriate for this kind of project, but it would be VERY expensive, and no government is willing to pay for it, so it won't happen within the next 20 years (or more). Lots of great, forward-thinking science projects are technologically feasible today (like a manned Mars mission, a space elevator, an infrastructure to support hydrogen power, a moon base, a sustainable fusion reactor, etc.), but economics and the unwillingness to devote the needed resources for something new and unproven prevent them from seeing the light of day. We COULD do these things if we, as a society, really wanted to.

Travel to other star systems? Not possible right now. But travel to Mars? How bad do you (we) want it?

Call me an optimist, but.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16546022)

Do any of you actually believe we are close to being able to produce one of these monsters? I am guessing we are still thirty years away from the appropriate tech.

I think we'll get a space elevator really soon: right after the first flying cars go into production, and the first bridge across the Atlantic is finally built.

Nooooooo!! (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16534970)

No! Not the canadians! Noo'oh! It ruins my self-esteem.

Re:Nooooooo!! (1)

From A Far Away Land (930780) | more than 7 years ago | (#16537636)

Exactly what is insightful aboot a stupid jab at Canadians being less well known for space advances than Americans? Funny perhaps, flamebait maybe, but not very insightful.

Canada had one of the leading contenders for the X-Prize, The Da Vinci Project, behind Space Ship One. We were among the first nations to launch a satellite, and have had vital technology on the space shuttle, and ISS. If someone feels inferior because lowly Canada where it's all ice and snow and Inuit is doing fine science, well then boo hoo.

Re:Nooooooo!! (1)

vorlich (972710) | more than 7 years ago | (#16543670)

Canadians were of course the very first people to have satellite television transmissions. So it's not just about beer.

2 days? (1)

kbox (980541) | more than 7 years ago | (#16535078)

So they are going to concieve, design and build this space elevator over the weekend?

So......when will it be? (4, Funny)

KuRa_Scvls (932317) | more than 7 years ago | (#16535098)

How long will it take for me to be able to press all of the buttons on that elevator as a prank?

Re:So......when will it be? (5, Funny)

kbox (980541) | more than 7 years ago | (#16535256)

Not long, There are only three.. Earth, Menswear and space.

Welll..... (5, Funny)

MrAnnoyanceToYou (654053) | more than 7 years ago | (#16535102)

If you lived next to 300 million Americans, you'd want off this stupid rock too.

Re:Welll..... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16535504)

If you lived next to 300 million Americans, you'd want off this stupid rock too.

You could simply move farther north, away from the border.

Re:Welll..... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16535802)

Why should we move? They're the ones who suck.

Re:Welll..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16540892)

Oh for god's sake, it was an Office Space reference.

Good thing I posted anonymously.

Re:Welll..... (2, Funny)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 7 years ago | (#16535682)

Why else would we try to get to the moon if not to get away from the land of Celine Dion and Alanis Morissette?

I said it before and I'll say it again: we're putting a fence up along the wrong border.

Re:Welll..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16535872)

Actually, that would be 100 million Americans, and 200 million illegal immigrants.

Re:Welll..... (4, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 7 years ago | (#16535946)

Actually, that would be 100 million Americans, and 200 million illegal immigrants.

I didn't know there were so many native Americans left.

Re:Welll..... (1)

WilliamSChips (793741) | more than 7 years ago | (#16538168)

There aren't. It's just that people in the second-most-recent wave of immigration would like to think that they're somehow better than people in the most recent wave of immigration.

Re:Welll..... (2, Funny)

tgd (2822) | more than 7 years ago | (#16536212)

And strangely, if you live in the middle of them, you want to move to Canada.

It all makes sense now.

Re:Welll..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16537928)

If you lived next to 300 million Americans, you'd want off this stupid rock too.


What we need here is not an elevator, but a bridge, one from Mexico over the US into Canada.

I'm sure after a few years of that canada will want to be our neighbors again.

Re:Welll..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16542068)

Yeah...those damned Mexican's, who'd want to live next to them...ewww

No wonder we want to get away from a nation full of bigots...

Gravity Kite (2, Interesting)

Programmer_Errant (1004370) | more than 7 years ago | (#16535376)

Forget space elevators, I'd use gyroscopes so as to use the earth's angular interia to leverage them and a payload into space. Leverage being the key word here. You'd need some tethers or boons to control the contraption and keep it from precessing in the wrong directions. Of course once it's up there, it might look a lot like a space elevator.

Go Canada! (0, Offtopic)

billcopc (196330) | more than 7 years ago | (#16535918)

I hope we get it done first.. -50% mineral costs for every Nessus orbital device makes a big difference in the endgame.

But seriously though, it'd be nice if my country could pull this one off. We're always so busy cleaning up other people's messes with our peace keeping missions that nothing big ever happens at home. Canada may be once of the nicer places to live, but the only thing this country's a leader in is taxation, and that's not a good thing :P

Oh and uh, we have better broadband than the USA *snicker* But still not as good as Sweden

Re:Go Canada! (0, Flamebait)

grishknash (118043) | more than 7 years ago | (#16535962)

I'm a Canuck living overseas. I'll gladly pay Canadian taxes for the health care and education alone. Canadians look south and see low taxes. What do they get south of the border? Bush, Bud(weiser) and backruptcy (cannot afford medical bills, or thier education). Gimme Canadian women and beer 8 days a week!

Re:Go Canada! (3, Insightful)

freezin fat guy (713417) | more than 7 years ago | (#16537614)

For those of you who wonder why we (Canucks) are so self-congratulatory allow me to explain:

We are the only nation on earth who borders no one else but the most powerful country in the world. We live and die under the shadow of the United States. In fact many parts of the world view us as the little brother of the US. So like a little brother we are always looking for something that proves our importance. Even better if we find one or two things we can do better than big brother. (this article not a good example of such) We are always looking for acknowlegement.

Also like a little brother we aren't taken seriously, even on those occasions we might have something good to say. "Shut up and let the grown-ups talk, little guy..."

Personally I am a fan of honest criticism and not bowing to the greater powers when it's not appropriate. That part makes me proud to be Canadian. But I'm not a fan of merely insulting the greater powers. Isn't that a form of intolerance? But just so you know, when you're a little brother you mouth off quite a bit but deep down you can't change the fact you love your older brother. You just don't like to admit those things out loud.

Re:Go Canada! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16543470)

If that was a dating profile, I'd set you up with New Zealand.

Re:Go Canada! (3, Insightful)

b4stard (893180) | more than 7 years ago | (#16535996)

Canada may be once of the nicer places to live, but the only thing this country's a leader in is taxation ...
Ever struck you that the high taxes (or rather what the taxes are spent on) and the high niceness of living could be correlated?

Re:Go Canada! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16536302)

How is Iraq possibly "other people's messes"?

Taxes? (1)

Mark_MF-WN (678030) | more than 7 years ago | (#16543628)

Wow, I thought the taxation issue was dead... but here we are.

Canadian taxes average to 40% of earned income, American taxes 30%. Seems like a big difference, until you note that Americans get piss all of their money. Shitty schools, no health care, prisons that are basically slave labour camps, universities that only the ultra-wealthy and a few token geniuses on scholarships can attend, ghettos, etc. In terms of actually getting value for one's tax dollars, we're so far ahead of Americans that I'm surprised they're willing to show their faces in public. Seriously -- we're talking about a country where pork-barrel projects are standard operating procedure (something like 80% of NASA's budget is "earmarked" for make-work projects...) A country where there are two national healthcare programs and a drug program that all together cost about a trillion dollars yearly and manage to help a grand total of zero people. A country that spends more on its military than the GNPs of most of the world's nations combined, and yet can't afford to pay its crippled veterans' pensions.

Seriously, the next one of my fellow Canadians I see whining about taxes is going to get a ballpoint pen through the eye. Then I'll dare them to stand up for their belief in how bad taxes are by NOT suckling off our healthcare system, police force, surprisingly costly legal system, or disability programs (assuming they're slow and I manage to tag the other eye as well).

Space elevator (2)

SmartAZ (1003207) | more than 7 years ago | (#16535978)

There are two failure points in the "space elevator" idea. The first is a flaw in the theory, the other is a danger that is known but ignored. The theoretical flaw is exposed by the name "space elevator". Almost everybody tends to assume that getting into orbit is a matter of gaining altitude. It is not. A ship can orbit as low as 60 miles or so, but but it has to accellerate to about 17,000 miles per hour to do it. To get into a geosychronous orbit requires a much higher velocity. Space nerds call that "delta v", and it is the coin of the realm. Altitude is of interest, but it's delta v that gets you from one altitude to another. The energy to lift a pod is drawn from the anchor already in orbit, pulling it down. As it drops it moves ahead. The tether won't allow it to move ahead. The tether pulls on the anchor, causing it to drop more, and the anchor wraps its tether around the earth and crashes. The only way to prevent this is to apply rocket power to the anchor; exactly as much power as it would have taken to lift and accelerate the pod without the tether. The other danger is lightning. We have this thing called the ionosphere. The "ion" part means electrical charge. Meteors and ships passing through this zone often trigger a discharge of the stored energy. The amount of stored energy varies, but anything that crosses that zone can discharge whatever is stored there. The space elevator's tether would be the world's tallest lightning rod. BTW, I anticipate that there will be at least one response from someone who thinks the physical laws can be circumvented by careful design, and another from someone who thinks all laws are subject to a vote.

Re:Space elevator (4, Informative)

GTMoogle (968547) | more than 7 years ago | (#16536262)

Uhm, you can put the rockets on the earth side, actually, and by rockets I mean a large mass sitting on the earth's surface. The other end of the tether can have a constant outward pull that is more than capable of counteracting any and all mass sent up the line.

As for the ionosphere, they've actually done a lot of research entirely unrelated to the space elevator including physical tests. From what I've read on it, they're not ignoring the problem, it's just not significant. The proposed carbon nanotube cable isn't really conductive and would only be affected by the very local area anyway. That doesn't ammount to much. They've even bothered to calculate whether having a conductive cable could generate any useful power. The answer was no, there's just not enough energy there to do anything useful with. Even if the cable could act as a lighting rod, lighting is the result of built up potential. Having a lightning rod to the clouds would prevent any potential from building!

A concern you didn't raise, that's nonetheless of interest (to me anyway) is the scale of the project. IIRC, the individual wires that make up the cables of the golden gate bridge if placed end to end would actually be as long as the space elevator. Probably heavier as well. Since the cable has so much surface area, and most likely would be cut very very close to the ground (ie still in atmosphere), the cable would flutter harmlessly to earth. So disaster situations are unlikely.

Re:Space elevator (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#16536510)

The proposed carbon nanotube cable isn't really conductive

Would that be the same carbon nanotubes that are being used for MIT's super capacitors as well as being looked at for super conductors?

Re:Space elevator (4, Informative)

GTMoogle (968547) | more than 7 years ago | (#16536796)

No, the structure of carbon nanotubes (there are many variations) determine its electrical properties, as well materials that the tubes can be doped with. You can make them insulators or conductors.

In addition, the current idea is that the cable will be made of short filaments of carbon nanotubes glued together in some as-yet-to-be-developed fashion. The glue alone would probably make the cable non-conductive.

As a material, nanotubes have very flexible properties. By the time we're able to produce the quality and quantity necessary to make a feasible cable, we'll probably have the technology to pick and chose its attributes.

If it's conductive, (1)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 7 years ago | (#16538046)

Take the weight of photovoltaics off the car and put it directly on the cable, with big solar arrays at intervals (optionally lit up from the ground) and car power through the cable.

With no atmosphere to create corona discharge, you could transmit power over remarkable distances by going to really high voltages.

Angular Systems (1)

Mark_MF-WN (678030) | more than 7 years ago | (#16543556)

I'm not sure you quite understand how this works -- space elevators have absolutely NOTHING to do with orbiting. If the tether is pulled towards earth by its payload, if it loses some velocity as momentum is transferred to the payload, it immediately re-extends and accelerates back to the full angular velocity of the earth. That's the whole point of this: the tether is tied to the planet, so it's the planet that loses a small amount of angular momentum and gets pushed away from the payload.

Nice try though. Read a physics book, look up the chapter on rotational kinematics. Note how things can spin and stay extended without having to be in a gravitational orbit.

It's not going to work. (2, Funny)

Venerable Vegetable (1003177) | more than 7 years ago | (#16536122)

A few thousand people gathering in the desert to make a space elevator. Sounds good in theory but in reality the guy at the bottom will never be able to support the weight of all the others on his shoulders.

I was there! (4, Interesting)

apsmith (17989) | more than 7 years ago | (#16536136)

It was pretty cool seeing the teams trying to climb the tether. I only saw a couple make it to the top (200 ft), but several got part way. I don't believe anybody beat the 1-minute time limit to meet the goal.

One interesting thing is that, having to power the climbers from beamed power, they had to make them as light as possible, relative to the area of solar panels trying to capture energy. So these were pretty flimsy looking devices, and you could see wind causing trouble. Stripped bolts and computer glitches also caused their share of failures...

It was also nice to see all those young teams of excited people trying to do this - mostly undergraduate engineering students, but there were even some high school students participating.

And having John Carmack hanging out chatting with the crowd while his crew was trying to get his "hover" craft back in shape was fun. They had jumbotron displays for their challenge attempts, but you could also see it just hovering there a hundred feet up (not too close to the crowd, but quite visible). Of course the crashes had a bit of a car-wreck interest too... The most successful things seemed to be some straightforward high powered rocket launches. But there was a big enthusiastic crowd, and lots of sideshows. Definitely worth a trip to the El Paso area if they do this again!

Nuclear power best space elevator power source! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16538292)

A small nuclear power generator will prove to be the best way to power the space elevator. Problems of aiming
may prove intractable for laser power systems. Lightning may prove another hazard, but a large ground tower that is taller than most weather may obviate that difficulty. The elevator cars for the space elevator have been projected to weigh a much as fifty tons. The payload capability would be huge, and cost per pound of delivered cargo to synchronous earth orbit will plummet. This is not 'low orbit' sports fans! It is regular standard orbit such that once there you will not fall down eventually, but just as likely would fall 'up' into interplanetary orbital space. This would be the most useful place to be to construct off planet any and all interplanetary exploration craft. Interplanetary exploration craft would never be intended to land on a planet, but to travel to and from there with cargo that could in craft designed for that purpose. Furthermore, if we build an elevetor from earth to space, constructing similar smaller tethers for access to other target bodies in our solar system would be trivial. Much easier to go from up to down. As for nuclear power, what's not to like? You have the best possible long lived power source with little need to refuel it for a long time, and the fuel has the best energy density that we know of and can lay our hands on. Sure it has its hazards, but most chemical systems are
an expensive and even more dangerous hazard.....and take up over ninety percent of any ship with fuel that one literally throws away. Detractors from nuclear have mostly proved to be luddites, enemy agents, and publicity seekers peddling fear. Well, space is dangerous and we do not have the dubious luxury of not going, so why not go in comfort and safety and independance instead of in a cramped artillery shell. The space elevator will give
us this freedom. The Chinese think so as well and are developing the technology as fast as they can. They only hope a rear guard action using Viet-Nam era subvervion tactics that worked well for them in the past will again work in the present with the stakes astronomically higher. Literally!

I was there too! (1)

Jon Abbott (723) | more than 7 years ago | (#16539150)

Indeed, seeing this first hand was quite interesting (I was there both days, and spent some time in neighboring Truth or Consequences, Aguirre Springs Recreation Area, and White Sands National Monument). I was really impressed with the high school space elevator team, as their device made it all the way up without much of a problem. I wish I was able to get more videos of the Tripoli rockets firing, as those were really neat. I was a bit under-whelmed by the lunar lander challenge though, if only because of the lack of teams competing and the problems encountered. But I suppose that is the nature of experimentation! :^) I thought the rocketman was going to fly around the crowd (like at other events)... Just seeing him float up 30 feet and back down was not too impressive. Seeing NASA astronaut Mike Foale's [nasa.gov] presentation about life aboard the ISS was really interesting and humorous. It is really neat to see the general enthusiasm surrounding rocketry and space exploration/travel at the event. I would like to go again when Virgin Galactic [virgingalactic.com] sets up shop in Upham, NM [thespacereview.com] at the New Mexico Spaceport...

Re:I was there! (1)

jshazen (233469) | more than 7 years ago | (#16544426)

John Carmack ...get[ting] his "hover" craft back in shape...

What happened? Was it full of eels?

What is the article about? (1)

mi (197448) | more than 7 years ago | (#16536308)

Space Elevator and the X-Prize competition, or the Canadian participants of it?

"Oh, look, Canadians — how cute"?

Popular Mechanics, june 2056 issue (1)

cinnamon colbert (732724) | more than 7 years ago | (#16536322)

Enthusiasts are hoping ot have a working flying car to take people to the PROPOSED space elevator. Says G Pangloss, ceo, we expect a working elevator protype to be built sometime in the next 20 years, and our flying car will allow you to get priority status by going directly to the landing station at 15,000 feet...

In other news, /.ers continue with wierd offf the wall fantasys..

Re:Popular Mechanics, june 2056 issue (1)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 7 years ago | (#16537190)

In other news, /.ers continue with wierd offf the wall fantasys..


No, no, no, you're doing it all wrong. A curmudgeonly rant must always start with "If man were meant to $(ACTIVITY), God would have given him $(POWER)". Then you should follow that up by complaining about some perceived shortcoming of "kids these days", and conclude with a demand that they get off your lawn.

Re:Popular Mechanics, june 2056 issue (1)

fimbulvetr (598306) | more than 7 years ago | (#16541848)

I feel the need to complain about the old school shell script variable syntax.

Re:Popular Mechanics, june 2056 issue (1)

WilliamSChips (793741) | more than 7 years ago | (#16538186)

In other news, /.ers continue with wierd offf the wall fantasys..
...like heavier-than-air flight and more than 640k.

Re:Popular Mechanics, june 2056 issue (1)

cinnamon colbert (732724) | more than 7 years ago | (#16538604)

that is a really interesting point, which gets to the heart of the discussion: certain things can be solved by technology (bits/$/square mm) and some things can't - safety of flying cars, or the amount of energy required to lift someone into orbit, or they require really new technologies (automated safety systems, fusion power)

I think as older americans like myself, there was a bit of jingoism in what we were taught about the history of heavier then air flight, the brave wright brothers battling the doubters...in fact, I think the history is more that many poeple were trying heavier then air flight, and the theorists knew they had significant problems with their theorys, since theory predicted the bumblebee could not fly (they did not know about,for instance, wake vortices)

re the advance of comp;uters, there will always be some technology that is doing much better then the others; that does not mean the others should move as fast, but that there are some special circumstance that made possible the fast moving technology.

as Feynman remarked, the physics mafia is carefull to boast about how they can predict the origin of the universe, but they can't predict what will happen when you push water through a pipe.

Canadians will lead the way (5, Funny)

duh P3rf3ss3r (967183) | more than 7 years ago | (#16536390)

'Cause if there's one thing Canadians are good at, it's getting an entire carload of people high.

North Pole? (1)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 7 years ago | (#16536876)

Can the elevator be built at the poles? There were issues with animals and insects making homes on the test cables in friendlier climes. I don't think the rotation of the Earth is what keeps the elevator up...

Re:North Pole? (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 7 years ago | (#16538500)

The rotation of the earth is exactly what keeps the elevator up, much like swinging a weight on the end of a rope. Although it would be theoretically possible to anchor the cable at the pole, the additional problems would far outweigh the benefits.

Re:North Pole? (1)

donotdespisethesnake (1010769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16538932)

> The rotation of the earth is exactly what keeps the elevator up, much like swinging a weight on the end of a rope. Although it > would be theoretically possible to anchor the cable at the pole, the additional problems would far outweigh the benefits. I am amazed at the many incorrect comments here, this is a typical one which doesn't make any sense. I thought we were supposed to be nerds who know about this sort of stuff? It is almost completely unlike swinging a weight on the end of a rope. A space elevator would effectively be a long thin satellite in geo-stationary orbit. Therefore, it can only be built near the equator. While theoretically quite possible, a space elevator has huge practical problems to overcome, and for those reasons I doubt it could ever be built. Not least is the problem of powering the car over a 35,000+ km journey. I will be very impressed if they can achieve even 1% of that distance. Then there are the political and insurance implications to be dealt with.

Re:North Pole? (3, Interesting)

donotdespisethesnake (1010769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16538978)

> The rotation of the earth is exactly what keeps the elevator up, much like swinging a weight on the end of a rope. Although it
> would be theoretically possible to anchor the cable at the pole, the additional problems would far outweigh the benefits.

I am amazed at the many incorrect comments here, this is a typical one which doesn't make any sense. I thought we were supposed to be nerds who know about this sort of stuff?

It is almost completely unlike swinging a weight on the end of a rope. It's the rotation of the elevator cable itself that keeps it in orbit, not the Earth. A space elevator would effectively be a long thin satellite in geo-stationary orbit. Therefore, it can only be built near the equator.

While theoretically quite possible, a space elevator has huge practical problems to overcome, and for those reasons I doubt it could ever be built. Not least is the problem of powering the car over a 35,000+ km journey. I will be very impressed if they can achieve even 1% of that distance. Then there are the political and insurance implications to be dealt with.

Re:North Pole? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16540940)

Uh, it's like swinging a weight on the end of a rope because the center of mass of the elevator can be in geosynchronous orbit or further. It just happens that there is no good reason to place it much further than necessary because that would require a stronger tether and provide little benefit.

Rotation (1)

Mark_MF-WN (678030) | more than 7 years ago | (#16543594)

It's EXACTLY the rotation of the earth that holds it up. It's like swinging a rock on a string around your head. The only difference is that the hypothetical rock will be help in its circular path by the balance of the string's tension against the centripetal acceleration, whereas the space elevator is held in place by the balance of the string's tension AND gravity against the centripetal acceleration.

Couldn't we build... (1)

Jpauls104 (650945) | more than 7 years ago | (#16536984)

a massive structure of granite rock up there, and once we get close then build something people in the X-Prize have thought of. By massive, I mean... (everast height)*X = height to space, X times the size of everast Big.

Re:Couldn't we build... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16537458)

You don't seem to appreciate the orders of magnitude involved.

Eventually they need a 100,000-kilometre tether. A tower 10 times Everest is 88 km up. 99,912 km to go.

Now, they might actually build a tower for some odd reason (say, to prevent wildlife from nesting on the tether) but the reason is NOT going to be to "get close".

bush gets out his bottlerockets (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 7 years ago | (#16537062)

Didn't good 'ol George just say something about attacking anyone that tried to walk "on his turf"?

Excellent! (2, Funny)

deadhammer (576762) | more than 7 years ago | (#16537952)

Great! As a Canadian, I can tell you it's about time we got some decent beer into space! Our first experiment shall, of course, be the effects of alcohol in microgravity!

Now then, while we're up, there's a few things we could dump off in orbit that we've been meaning to for a while now. Celine Dion will be taking the first trip up. She won't be coming back down.

Re:Excellent! (1)

Beefslaya (832030) | more than 7 years ago | (#16541534)

I for one would like to see Tim Horton's at every Mile interval.

I'm sure with the nanotube design, they can have Labatt's taps there too.

Space elevator? Bwa hah hah hah (3, Funny)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 7 years ago | (#16538992)

I love all of this talk about space elevators... it's like witnessing people saying the world is flat or the moon is made of cheese back when thsoe ideas weren't considered to be hilarious. Space elevators are the sort of thing that our kids/grandkids are going to look back on and laugh and laugh and laugh.

We need a new X-Prize. An X-Prize for coming up with a psuedo-science "flying car" of the future and selling it to a uneducated and unwitting public. The first person to get 10 million believers wins.

I'm working on developing a space catapult that we can use to launch payloads into space. We haven't developed the supertension springs and bands we need but with advances in carbon nanotubes, the human genome, and nanobots we should have that technology in full production in the next 30 years so I'm going to focus on the catapult "cup" used to hold the payload.

And if that doesn't work I'm also developing plans for a capsule that will burrow to the center of the earth using two simple principles weight and edginess (meaning sharp not hip but disturbing). The capsule will use nanobots (which will be commonplace in 15-20 years) to farm bacteria that will sharpen and resharpen a super-carbonnanotube-alloy shell to the finest point ever known in the universe. A point capable of cutting through any material known to man. The capsule will use an EOD (extremly dense object) attached to the opposite end of the point to provide weight to push the point into the ground. This EOD will use new alloys and atomic manipulation techniques that will only be available in 10-15 years. Since we know we'll have these things I'm going to focus on creating a comfortable chair, probably made of leather with a racing stripe, to be installed into the capsule.

Re:Space elevator? Bwa hah hah hah (1)

The One and Only (691315) | more than 7 years ago | (#16542078)

The space elevator might be the next flying car, or it might be the next aeroplane. Either way, we'll find out in the nest 10-20 years.

Lasers (1)

drewsup (990717) | more than 7 years ago | (#16541398)

How do they get the freaking sharks to keep pointing their heads straight up. Wait theres no ocean in New Mexico anyway... Nvrmnd....

Economics (1)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | more than 7 years ago | (#16584766)

It's actually very cost effective to offer the X-Prize for the climber now. By the time we can actually make the cable, in 50-100 years, hopefully all the good ideas for the climber design will have become public domain. Spend a few million now, and you don't have to spend billions to license the technology later.
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