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Space Elevator Rebuttal From LiftPort Founder

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the take-a-second-look dept.

Slashback 368

TropicalCoder is the reader who submitted the story about the possible demise of LiftPort a couple of weeks back. The resulting discussion was mostly negative about the feasibility of building a space elevator. TropicalCoder writes: "At one point during the discussion, LiftPort founder Michael J. Laine personally entered the discussion, but for the most part remained invisible since he hadn't logged in. I responded to his comment that if he would like a chance to rebut the criticisms, he should contact me and I would undertake to interview him and post the resulting story on Slashdot." Read below for the story of how Mr. Laine's detailed reply and rebuttal to that Slashdot discussion came about. TropicalCoder asks, "After reading LiftPort's rebuttal to Slashdot critics, do any of you now feel your pessimism somewhat dispelled?"
Michael Laine called me long distance via cell phone that very day from his back yard near Seattle, and spoke with me for over an hour. Michael came across as a rather sober, likable fellow, not at all like the crackpot image one would conjure up from reading many of the Slashdot comments. He was clearly wounded by the stinging criticisms in the Slashdot discussion, and I couldn't help empathizing with him. Here was man who had put his money where his mouth was, risking everything on his dream, perhaps suffering his darkest hour, and enduring ridicule on top of that.

At no point during the conversation did I get any impression of a huckster who would sell you the Brooklyn Bridge, something that I was on the lookout for. It was clear to me that he sincerely believes in what he is doing. Whether he succeeds in the end or not, I would prefer to call him a "visionary." After all, for every great visionary you can recall from history, there must have been a thousand others who tried and failed, but are no less visionary because of that. The jury is still out on LiftPort, and rumors of their death would be premature. They continue their research, and as I write are preparing for the "Tethered Towers" demo on Thursday June 28.

At the end of the conversation it was agreed that I would summarize the Slashdot discussion for him and offer him an opportunity for point-by-point rebuttal. I completed this summary (in which many Slashdot readers will recognize their own words), and sent it off to him the next day. He acknowledged receipt and promised an answer shortly. A few weeks passed, and I imagined that he must have decided in the end that the criticisms were so severe, perhaps it would be best just to try to forget it. It was a total surprise to me when a thoroughly detailed response arrived in my mailbox today, demonstrating that the people at LiftPort at least are still convinced that building a space elevator is possible.

Space elevator themes have been celebrated in science fiction and many Slashdot readers have shared the dream, only to become disillusioned with the apparent pending demise of LiftPort. After reading LiftPort's rebuttal to Slashdot critics, do any of you now feel your pessimism somewhat dispelled?"

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368 comments

It was doomed to failure (-1, Redundant)

xinjiang77 (1106823) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646153)

Space elevators are only possible with engineered carbon nanotubes which have only recently been envisioned by scientists. With space-based federal funding on the decline, it is not likely this technology will be used anytime soon, perhaps not until after humans land on Mars, if that even happens. Federal funding is a blessing as much as it is a curse.

Dear Asscork (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19646187)

Space elevators are only possible with engineered carbon nanotubes which have only recently been envisioned by scientists. With space-based federal funding on the decline, Hermione dies in HP 7 it is not likely this technology will be used anytime soon, perhaps not until after humans land on Mars, if that even happens. Federal funding is a blessing as much as it is a curse.

Re:Dear Asscork (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19646273)

Hahah that's some funny shit. I'm reading along, and all of a sudden I see the words Hermione dies in HP7 and I have no idea how that relates.
 
    Bam. That's a damned good lead-in :)

/tips bong to parent poster

Re:Dear Asscork (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19646311)

Well, I knew that the subject would attract your attention! Coming up with it was really the only hard part ;)

Re:Dear Asscork (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19646353)

I read everything. Sometimes the trolls are the most enjoyable :)

Re:It was doomed to failure (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19646241)

Congratulations! You are not the first to fail to read the article, but you do win a prize for being the most pompous Chinese gold farmer on slashdot today.

Re:It was doomed to failure (1)

AoT (107216) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646257)

Space elevators are only possible with engineered carbon nanotubes which have only recently been envisioned by scientists.

And by envisioned you mean created, because they have been. Certainly not up to spec for a space elevator yet, but they are out there already.

Re:It was doomed to failure (1)

jeff4747 (256583) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646281)

Why would nanotubes be only used in space R&D?

There's lots and lots of places on Earth where nanotubes would be very helpful. A whole bunch of them pay for their own R&D without any federal funding.

There's also more than 1 scientifically advanced country, and they're not on the decline when it comes to basic research.

Re:It was doomed to failure (1)

butlerdi (705651) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646327)

You speak of Federal funding. This US centric view is quite funny. Why is it not possible that one of the newer emerging economies would start to fund such ventures. China is spending more on space these days, as is the EU or even a cartel of corporates. Granted the state of the art in nanotech is still a bit lacking, but recent successes are rather inspiring.

Re:It was doomed to failure (5, Insightful)

Puff of Logic (895805) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646419)

You speak of Federal funding. This US centric view is quite funny. Why is it not possible that one of the newer emerging economies would start to fund such ventures. China is spending more on space these days, as is the EU or even a cartel of corporates. Granted the state of the art in nanotech is still a bit lacking, but recent successes are rather inspiring.
The funny thing is that the one impetus that would absolutely, positively guarantee that the US would build a space elevator is if the EU, Russia, or China started work on one. Have no doubt: no-one on the planet will be permitted to build a space-elevator before the US or without US involvement; the federal/military complex in this nation wouldn't permit it.

Re:It was doomed to failure (2, Interesting)

Urkki (668283) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646873)

The funny thing is that the one impetus that would absolutely, positively guarantee that the US would build a space elevator is if the EU, Russia, or China started work on one. Have no doubt: no-one on the planet will be permitted to build a space-elevator before the US or without US involvement; the federal/military complex in this nation wouldn't permit it.
By the time building a space elevator is a practical possibility, I doubt US is in a position to prevent other world powers from doing anything much (except by starting WW3, which I don't think is an option, because the rich bastards at the top really do not want to live in a private luxury radiation shelters for the rest of their lives). The balance of economic power is shifting to the east, and I don't see that development reversing without a major worldwide crisis, and then building a space elevator would probably not be a high priority for anybody... And with economic power goes the power to meddle with other nations' business, such as building a space elevator.

But if we end up with a "bipolar" cold war world, then you're right. Obiviously if one block starts to build an elevator, the other block has no option but to start building one as well, and certainly US will still exist and be in one of the blocks by the time we can practically build one. Of course there's no guarantee that the block with US would get their elevator finished first, but I don't think that really matters as long as both blocks would get their elevators working in the same decade or so. Considering the possible problems that won't be discovered until the elevator is finished, it might even be desirable to be the 2nd, a few years behind, so that there's still time to alter the design if some unforeseen problem is discovered by the 1st.

Re:It was doomed to failure (4, Interesting)

butlerdi (705651) | more than 6 years ago | (#19647475)

Well, just saw this

EuroSpaceward was just awarded funding by The National Research Fund of Luxembourg to hold a workshop on space elevator climber and tether design primarily focusing on systems for entry in the US and German competitions. The tentative dates are Nov. 14-16, 2007 and the workshop will be held in a yet to be announced venue in Luxembourg.

found at http://www.spaceelevator.com/ [spaceelevator.com]

So it does seem there is still some interest outside US, albeit for entering a NASA based competition. I think that the immigration problems in the US for foreign students will quickly have some negative effect on innovation in the US in the long term. Innovation in the US has always been due to it's courting of students world wide to study and then contribute.

Re:It was doomed to failure (1)

dintech (998802) | more than 6 years ago | (#19647549)

Hmm. How exactly would they stop China from achieving this if that's what they wanted to do?

As a general rule of thumb (0, Troll)

The_Abortionist (930834) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646455)

The US is better than the rest of the world combined in almost everything. So why even consider mentioning China or the EU when discussing important things? Are we going to include African spear chucking next time we talk about rocket science, too?

What science has China ever produced (no need to mention 1-2 things from thousands of years ago)? All they do is steal everything and give nothing back, other than selling to us cheap products built by a slave labor force.

So please get off your high horses and understand and agree with the fact that almost anything that ends up benefiting humanity comes first and foremost from the coffers of the US government. BTW, as a US taxpayer, I benefit your existence everyday. But don't mention it, thanks!

Re:As a general rule of thumb (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19646717)

Ha ha! This guy's a hilarious parody of a typical American.

Honestly, Americans are getting out of the science business. I'm getting a PhD in condensed matter physics. In that specialization, in my class, there are two Chinese students, an Armenian and one American (me). That's pretty typical.

You are right that the US government pays for a lot... all these international students sure appreciate their US grant-funded educations when they go home. Too bad our government, in all it's wisdom, requires them to do that after paying for their education.

Re:As a general rule of thumb (2, Insightful)

Gorshkov (932507) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646729)

All they do is steal everything and give nothing back, other than selling to us cheap products built by a slave labor force.
Woah .... deja vue all over again.

Is it just me, or were people saying that about Japan just before and after WW II?

Re:As a general rule of thumb (2, Insightful)

butlerdi (705651) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646865)

Coming from that era I can say that one of the worst things that could be said about a product was that it was made in Japan.

Objection: Asked and Answered (2, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646369)

If it weren't for the costs, we could build one this year. Materials exist today that are strong enough and light enough to support the weight of the lifter and itself. The problem is the number of rocket launches it would take to get the construction started. You could build it out of Spectra but you would need hundreds of heavy lift rockets just to get started. The cost of launch for those rockets would make the project not financially viable. In fact, you could make the elevator out of other materials that each have their own set of difficulties. So, in short, your premise is incorrect. Certainly, the design would be different, and there would be other challenges that are not managed in the current design, but lets be perfectly clear - there is a big difference between ''difficult'' and ''impossible''. An elevator to space is only difficult. Right now, we still don't know enough, which is why we have spent so much on research.
I don't AGREE with this claim.. I've seen no study which shows this to be the case, and all the other problems other than the material to use are not solved.. but he has already addressed the objection that you NEED carbon nanotubes.

Re:Objection: Asked and Answered (2, Interesting)

Jack9 (11421) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646463)

There's no reason to disagree with his claim. Heck, I could build a space elevator today with enough money. There is no claim that it would function or be useable or even deployable. I agree a worthless space elevator could be build for obscene amounts of money. I'm afraid this is more than a pipe dream, but a grand delusion. Put the money and R&D into personal jetpacks for God's sake.

A space elevator is basically a train (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646869)

It's a rail system, or at least, the economics of it are almost the same. The specific technology may be a bit different. And yet, people choose air, road over rail to a truly massive degree all over the world, even in countries where the rail system is reputed to be superb.

It's the same problem that solar power faces. If you took the cash spent to build a space elevator and invested it in other areas of the economy, you could basically fund conventional private space launches from now to infinity.

 

Re:Objection: Asked and Answered (1)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646997)

There's no reason to disagree with his claim. Heck, I could build a space elevator today with enough money.

So how much you need? $100, $200?

Put the money and R&D into personal jetpacks for God's sake.

Actually the alternative is creating huge rocket's with huge amounts of fuel in them, and throwing the rockets away in space (or ocean) every time you go up.

You consider if it's "for God's sake" or just the next very practical step in space trips. A space elevator would allow an entire new class of lightweight space ships which can't operate in Earth atmosphere. They'll be build and tested here, then elevated up and launch directly from space.

Re:Objection: Asked and Answered (2, Informative)

bodan (619290) | more than 6 years ago | (#19647087)

I don't AGREE with this claim.. I've seen no study which shows this to be the case, and all the other problems other than the material to use are not solved.. but he has already addressed the objection that you NEED carbon nanotubes.
That's because you didn't read enough. Most contemporary studies only deal with economically-feasible designs, which is why they only mention very-high-strength materials. This is because using lower-strength materials requires hugely more material, which is simply very hard to send up to orbit.

I have seen calculations for a steel elevator. Yes, it's physically possible with a very tappered design [wikipedia.org] , but it would have a diameter of several hundred kilometers at the thickest part. (Given that its several hundred thousand kilometers long, that's rather thin if you think about it.) However it would need the entire Earth's steel production for a few thousand years, probably, and even longer for rocket fuel to get things started.

However, steel isn't a very good choice because of weight (and it's not that strong, either). The optimal diameter at the thickest point is an exponential of density/tensile strength (with a pretty big constant). This means that even small (relatively) advances in that component will greatly decrease the cost, and we have materials much, much better than steel in that respect.

It's perfectly doable technically, without any major breakthroughs, it's just because of economics that you've never heard of that. With the best technology we have now it is still probably doable within a reasonable multiple of the world's GDP.

We need breakthroughs not to build it, but to build it with less than a country's GDP.

Re:Objection: Asked and Answered (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#19647245)

Ummm.. he said it could be done today with suffient funds. 1000 years of global steel production isn't today.

Good Writeup! (3, Interesting)

kspn78 (1116833) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646195)

I really enjoyed the writeup and the interview. I thought that it covered the points in a very concise fashion while also outlining all the points that had been raised in aa very negative manner. I look forward to following this project and its future directions.

Re:Good Writeup! (2, Interesting)

Doc Daneeka (1107345) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646361)

He may have covered the easy topics, but he failed to even skim the surface on the structural integrity questions that will come up.

Materials exist today that are strong enough and light enough to support the weight of the lifter and itself.
If that is so, can the structure sustain the drag forces of the jet stream? What about the linear and volumetric expansion coefficients? Over a structure this large, are you absolutely certain the large differences in temperatures will not cause the structural integrity to degrade rapidly or pose a significant risk due to changes in enthalpy over large periods of time? Have you taken into account the part of the structure in space that will absorb solar radiation unlike another cross section a small distance lower that would not absorb as much radiation? Do you have plans on how to dissipate the built up energy due to lightning strikes? Will that current go to ground first or will it jump to the cargo and/or electrical systems? Those are just a few of the questions that came to mind. They may have already been answered elsewhere but I did not find them in his rebuttal or a quick search of the web. Feel free to answer these if you can.

Re:Good Writeup! (1)

kspn78 (1116833) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646471)

I think that if they had all the answers then they would be building the Space Elevator now rather than a planned finish date of around 25 years!

Re:Good Writeup! (1)

Doc Daneeka (1107345) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646733)

If they had all these answers, then they would be able to more effectively describe the material to be synthesized in order to build the tower.

Re:Good Writeup! (1)

lessthan (977374) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646503)

So, ummm... you didn't read the article or any of the background material. Nice. The two I know are: the jet stream - they plan to build toward the equator, out of reach of all three jets and the lightening - the ground station isn't going to be on the ground, the plan is to create a sea-going station, plus in some areas thunderstorms are nearly non-existent. I know that that wasn't a complete answer on the lightening, but I'm just going on what I remember.

Re:Good Writeup! (2, Interesting)

Doc Daneeka (1107345) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646777)

I'm sorry but there is barely any in-depth material in the article or anything that can be viewed as actual information on their website. The information I'm taking about isn't the mission statements or the generic drivel that every company shells out, it's the information that can be used to actually generate some of the forces a structure like this will undergo.

The two I know are: the jet stream - they plan to build toward the equator, out of reach of all three jets and the lightening - the ground station isn't going to be on the ground, the plan is to create a sea-going station, plus in some areas thunderstorms are nearly non-existent. I know that that wasn't a complete answer on the lightening, but I'm just going on what I remember.
Alright, maybe I didn't elaborate. The structure will undergo tremendous stress due to the combined, and variable, drag forces over the entire structure. It doesn't take thunderstorms to build up electrical charge. Take a piece of metal and move it through an electric field, such as one generated by the earth, and you will build up charge. Which order of magnitude of a path is easier to take: 10^8 m of carbon nano-tubing or 10^0 m of air? While these questions may seem laughable, the engineers working on this project need to literally take everything into account while in the design process. To expect anything less is to invite disaster to the project. I have other questions I'd like to have answered but I'll just leave it at these before I start "reaching" a bit.

Re:Good Writeup! (1)

lessthan (977374) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646833)

I admit ignorance and apologize for being rude.

Re:Good Writeup! (1)

Doc Daneeka (1107345) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646853)

It's fine. I understand why you would want something as exciting as breakthrough like this to make headway. It sounds really cool. The only thing that should trouble you about the company is the remarkably small amount of actual information on their site. Too much Public Relation mumbo jumbo, not enough Engineering specifications. :-/

Re:Good Writeup! (1)

Bastard of Subhumani (827601) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646779)

WTF? As if this kite-on-steroids idea isn't daft enough to start with, they're going to attach it to a boat?

Re:Good Writeup! (2, Funny)

bodan (619290) | more than 6 years ago | (#19647121)

Yeah, right, good thinking. If I'd build a one hundred thousand kilometers long ribbon of the strongest materials known to man and place it in geostationary orbit, I'd damn right make sure it's safely attached to the ground.

I mean, a boat could... rock around? drift away? you're afraid the space elevator would sink? get lost? got wet? Think, people!

WHy Yes (2, Funny)

inKubus (199753) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646197)

do any of you now feel your pessimism somewhat dispelled

Why yes, I do believe my spirit has elevated. My feelings on the matter have definitely been lifted.

Jesus christ... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19646215)

What is this, a fucking soap opera?

This he-said, she-said crap is just that. Crap. Quit acting like little girls and STFU!

Ok, here's my comment (4, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646221)

Me: The Space Elevator is a glorious technology that may one day be built by an advanced human civilization, and when it is, it will be a modern world wonder.. but that day is not today.. it's probably not even in the next 30 years.

LiftPort: We disagree. So far as our official road map is concerned, we are on schedule - and in fact, we are even a little ahead of schedule on some projects.


Ok, that's great, but you're the ones making this amazing claim that you could build a space elevator today if only you had the money. Amazing claims require amazing proof. Your official road map doesn't exactly cut it.

Re:Ok, here's my comment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19646285)

Guess what, you can be the one to give them that money so they can do it! Give them the money and let them work, they've stated their limitation of providing the good, unless you want to meet that how can they logically prove it? Also if you read the entire piece you would note that they also suggest other issues with building it tomorrow (such as beauraucratic red tape). You've obviously read enough to copy and paste though. Well done for reading that much.

Re:Ok, here's my comment (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646319)

I read the whole thing. If they want to show that it is possible to build it with existing materials, do a paper study. Or, if one has already been done, tell me where it was published.

If the only problem is that it would cost too much, tell us how much it would cost. Tell us how much needs to be lifted into orbit, and which orbits, and tell us how all the mirade of other problems have been solved.

Re:Ok, here's my comment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19646583)

Why would they do that, when that's not anywhere near their business plan? It would be like asking Intel to release a 10 ghz chip, even though they wouldn't sell any, it would be slower than a dual or quad core cpu running at slower speeds, and would run hot as all hell, just because their current chips don't scale well..

Re:Ok, here's my comment (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646619)

Why would he make the claim when he can't back it up?

It's an extraordinary claim, it requires extraordinary evidence. If you can't produce that evidence, don't make the claim.

Unless, ya know, you want your credibility to be completely shot.

Re:Ok, here's my comment (3, Interesting)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646647)

More accurately, it's like asking Intel to release their trade-secret research on building 10 GHz chips, because you don't believe they're possible.

Look, the guy said they could do it with existing technology, given the funds for 100s of heavy lift rockets (Delta-V maybe?) and A LOT of Honeywell Spectra fibre. Think for a second how much 100s of heavy lift rockets would cost, even if they could have that many made within a production timespan - that's crazy money for most anyone. But if a group of BIG companies got together (Japanese style) I reckon it's almost feasible.

OTOH, and relating back to our Mars [slashdot.org] story, IF this cat can show big investors a serious engineering proposal for a project with existing technology, we just got our first "train station".

Re:Ok, here's my comment (2, Insightful)

AoT (107216) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646291)

You missed the point. They don't need a space elevator for their business plan to succeed, just the technologies that they are/will developing. That tech moves us closer to an SE, and it is profit generating in the short term.

Re:Ok, here's my comment (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19646557)

This, my friend, is an LL#17 (though more precisely a quaint sophism rather than a true lie) that goes something like "You could get X if only you paid enough" or "you have no need for Y yet since you are not willing to pay for it."

Re:Ok, here's my comment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19647531)

Thats a futile discussion. Future inventions are mostly unpredictable, and no party can prove or disprove your 30-year claim. It's a matter of personal opinion based on knowledge in that field.

Space elevator. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19646255)

The most retarded idea ever.

But what next? (5, Funny)

pchan- (118053) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646277)

I'm working on a space escalator. Sure, it's not as fast getting up there, but you don't have to wait for the car to come back down from orbit when you press the up button. To get down quickly, there's also a space firehouse pole.

In all seriousness, though, I wish the LiftPort guys luck. I'm not sure how feasible it is, but I'd rather have people investing in creative, sometimes radical technologies than just sitting back and saying "no, that'll never work".

Re:But what next? (2, Funny)

deetsay (703600) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646405)

I'm working on a space escalator. Sure, it's not as fast getting up there, but you don't have to wait for the car to come back down from orbit when you press the up button. To get down quickly, there's also a space firehouse pole.
There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold, and she's buying a stairway to heaven.

Alternatives (-1, Redundant)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646339)

If a space elevator isn't practical what about a space escalator? It would avoid the hazzard of days of exposure to elevator music.

Re:Alternatives (1)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646775)

And in the event of a mechanical or power failure it would just function as a space stair.

kdawson = more variety and easy listening hits! (0, Offtopic)

weighn (578357) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646403)

coondoggie writes to tell us, Van Cutter Romney sends us word and TropicalCoder is the reader who submitted the story ... kdawson, you are indeed a breath of fresh air!

Why? (1, Funny)

FredDC (1048502) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646417)

I'm not even gonna question whether it is possible/feasible/... I only want to know "Why?".

Why would you want to build an elevator into space? What do you put on the end of the elevator? An amusement park? With hookers and blackjack?

Just because it can be done, doesn't mean you have to do it... There are alot more important and much more useful projects money could be put into IMHO!

Re:Why? (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646461)

So we can live in constant fear of the top breaking and the whole thing wrapping around the earth several times!

Re:Why? (1)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646489)

Did you read the rebuttal? Thin as a sheet of paper, 15 feet wide. It'd fall with the force of newsprint due to air friction.

Re:Why? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19646603)

But is it DEADLY newsprint? C'mon! Fox News needs a good FUD headline!

Cyclone effects? (1)

Derling Whirvish (636322) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646693)

Thin as a sheet of paper, 15 feet wide.
And what is the wind loading on such a structure? The Pacific has category 5 cyclones you know.

Re:Cyclone effects? (3, Insightful)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646801)

What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow? How many angels can fly on the head of a pin? How many people tried to build an airplane before one flew? How many people thought they were idiots? Who, in 1902, could tell you the amount of lift generated by the wing of a 747?

Speculating now about the wind loading on a space elevator is akin to the last question.

Re:Cyclone effects? (1)

Eivind (15695) | more than 6 years ago | (#19647455)

It does. But only the bottom ~15km has significant wind-loads. That is a *very* small part of a 50.000km+ long cable. Thus the cable can be, if needed, strengthended and/or stabilised in this region without it adding much mass to the overall structure.

Re:Why? (1)

PeterBrett (780946) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646465)

Why would you want to build an elevator into space? What do you put on the end of the elevator? An amusement park? With hookers and blackjack?

If you like. It might be a more worthwhile use of time & money to put a spaceport there.

Re:Why? (4, Insightful)

creysoft (856713) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646495)

Because even though we can GET to space, all the really interesting stuff you can do up there is infeasible due to the fact that the only way to get anything INTO space at the moment is to strap a rocket to it and pray. Provided it gets there at all, it still costs tens of thousands of dollars per pound to get something up there. And once it's up there, there's no way to get it back down except to drop it.

The gigantic, orbiting space stations we envisioned as children won't be possible until we can get stuff to outer space cheaply and easily. Neither will manned missions to mars.

With a space elevator, all you do is load it up onto a climber and send it up the cable. It'll get there in a few days. Not as fast as a rocket, sure, but a hell of a lot cheaper, easier, and safer.

Right... (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#19647303)

And a space elevator will make it all free... A space elevator is anything but cheap.
 

Re:Right... (1)

splutty (43475) | more than 6 years ago | (#19647509)

And a space elevator will make it all free... A space elevator is anything but cheap.


You my friend, are totally missing the point. The actual building of a space elevator might be insanely expensive, but once it's there, getting things into space will be insanely cheap (in comparison to current day prices), and actually building a spacecraft that doesn't need to get out of the earth's gravity well would be feasible. This opens up a whole new way of doing things, and a whole new avenue for exploration (we might actually *get* to mine all those asteroids, after all, we can also cheaply send down all those minerals)

Getting rid of the expensive, unreliable bigass fireworks we're using today would be worth it.

Re:Why? (5, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646533)

Look, I don't blame you. There has been little to no public discussion of why space is such an important place to go. Let me try to explain just a little here for you now. For starters, we have an increasing population on Earth. Traditionally, this hasn't been much of a problem because the majority of the population has been too poor to pose any real threat to using up all the resources on Earth. There's a finite amount of coal, oil, and precious metals on this planet, not to mention land you can use for growing food. As they say, they're not making any more of it. So, what to do?

Well, there's some people who think we should force people to stop breeding. Put a limit on how many children you can have so that the birth rate is less than the death rate. Stop treating the sick and old. Stop giving aid to third world countries. Just let em all die so that the population of Earth gets down to a nice manageable level. These people rally under the banner of "Limits To Growth [wikipedia.org] ".

Then there's the space advocates. Of which I am one. We believe that the best solution to there not being enough resources on Earth for everyone is to go get resources off Earth. There's thousands of Near Earth Asteroids [wikipedia.org] which contain hundreds of times more metal than the entire crust of the Earth is believed to hold. There are only thousands of them because the Earth has this giant deflector that thankfully stops them from falling on us (although every 60 million years or so we get a big one that nearly wipes out all life on the planet, the last one was about 65 million years ago). This giant deflector is called The Moon and it has millions of craters on it, most of which were caused by these big metal asteroids.. the metal is still up there.

Getting to the Near Earth Asteroids is considered easier than getting to the Moon, but the Moon obviously has a lot more resources on it and, hey, we've done it a dozen times already. The cost of expanding our civilization into space is great. I don't argue that. But the cost of not expanding our civilization into space may well be much much greater. We're eating up this planet, and we don't (yet) have another one.

Re:Why? (1)

FredDC (1048502) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646721)

Look, I don't blame you.

Wow, and this on slashdot!

For starters, we have an increasing population on Earth.

Ok, and where will you send people? There is nothing out there where people can live... Space stations, off-world settlements, ... are distant future dreams at the moment. As much as I hate to say it (and I do hate it), humanity is just not up to the task yet!

There's thousands of Near Earth Asteroids which contain hundreds of times more metal than the entire crust of the Earth is believed to hold

You're going to build an elevator to bring stuff down? Seems like gravity does a pretty good job at it already according to me... A controlled descent of small enough packages seems alot cheaper/easier/faster/safer to me. We're already doing it all the time... And before we start building ways of getting it down, don't you think some time should be spent on thinking of a way of getting it off the asteroids/moon/... and bringing it to Earth first? I think this is the hard part, not how you bring it down...

An elevator into space can indeed have advantages, but I just don't see any at the moment, not in the immediate or even somewhat further future.

Re:Why? (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646811)

I can't believe I'm explaining this, but you need a launch capability much greater and cheaper than we have today to make a space economy work. Ya know, you gotta put mining equipment, and people and all the support infrastructure for people (or, if you can do it, lots of robots instead) onto the Moon. Doing that with Apollo era technology would be doable, if it weren't for the fact that the technology is classified.

Personally, I think the solution to the problem of better and cheaper rockets is people who want to make better and cheaper rockets (instead of companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin who just want nice fat profits). And thankfully that's happening now with the NewSpace community. But hey, if we can build a space elevator, that'd be great too.

And yes, there are plenty of designs for solar powered furnaces to melt and process this material on the Moon. This isn't a topic I can cover in a Slashdot post. There's a whole lot of literature on the subject. I recommend Dennis Wingo's Moonrush [amazon.com] as a starter.

You asked how this actually helps us ship people off world. It doesn't. That's not the goal. We're not trying to warehouse the poor in space. I've only presented one of the suggested ways that space can reduce the resource limitations of our planet. Precious metals are more than just fancy jewlry these days, they're used in all sorts of industrial processes.. and they're an integral part of the hydrogen economy, which many people recognise as our best bet for removing the world's dependancy on fossil fuels - just so long as we can get the greens to stop beating up on nuclear fission.. and it will be critical when fusion becomes a reality.

Then there's the space power satelite people. There's a heck of a lot of power out there and we could use it down here.

Then there's the people who want to teraform Mars and build giant domes over craters on the Moon. That does give you some people moving off world.. but more importantly, from Earth's perspective, is that it gives us experience doing planet sized engineering. Which, unfortunately, is exactly what we need to be doing with our own planet.

Re:Why? (1)

Doc Daneeka (1107345) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646963)

Hopefully, the fuel we use in the rockets will be neutral in terms of entropy change in the environment. So, that means either greater energy density batteries and solar panels that push closer and closer to the theoretical 50% efficiency, or using ethanol and/or butanol for fuel. If not, we, as a species, would have a three-pronged mission in space: first, obtain raw material to develop new technologies to go further and quicker into space; second, find new sources of fuel; and finally, either solve the ever increasing entropy problem or move the population somewhere else.

Personally, I dislike the term "global warming" as that would suggest that the overall enthalpy of earth were increasing. We are releasing more energy into the system so the overall entropy is increasing due to so many solid and liquids being converted into gas. I am not a scientist but that's just my two cents.

Re:Why? (1)

Eivind (15695) | more than 6 years ago | (#19647471)

We certainly aren't, as you say, yet.

Dropping launch-costs from $50.000/lbs to $500/lbs would however be a very significant step towards *making* us more capable of doing all that stuff. Particularily since one of the first cargoes hoisted on the first space-elevator would probably be: "Space-elevator 2"

If a person requires 100.000kgs of space-station to live in, that's $50million in lifting-costs at Liftports target price. Which makes it impractical for most of us. (but take note: there are individuals paying $20million for a short week-long *visit* to space today!

Visiting would be popular first, long before we ever got real settlers. A week-long visit as a tourist to a space-hotel migth require lifting 250kg of cargo, which would be $125.000 at Liftports target-price. That is expensive, but there are thousands of people who would be able and willing to pay it, just as there are dozens of people who are today trying to get into space at a price-point 2 orders of magnitude higher.

Re:Why? (1)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646955)

Well, there's some people who think we should force people to stop breeding. Put a limit on how many children you can have so that the birth rate is less than the death rate. Stop treating the sick and old. Stop giving aid to third world countries. Just let em all die so that the population of Earth gets down to a nice manageable level.

You can't forbid people to have kids, but there's a much simpler way to ensure they never have any (no, not neuter them).

You see, population grows, and all of that growth is coming from poor countries, and poor ghettos in richer countries. Truth is, in a modern society, the more educated you are, the better off you are, the more better off you want your kids to be, have access to birth control measures, and eventually have less kids, sometimes even have no kids.

At the end of the spectrum you're thinking about everything so much, you may never get a girlfriend in the first place.

So what do we need to do: get the world educated, and thinking a lot. The more they think about everything, the lower the birthrate.

It's a fact of life that when you're not busy thinking, you usually fill the time making lots of kids.

So there's my conclusion to this one problem

Re:Why? (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#19647023)

Oh, I don't disagree, but how exactly how you going to make everyone on Earth rich enough to become educated enough to reduce population growth?

And how are you going to solve the issue of all these now rich and educated people wanting access to materials that are in limited supply?

That's what expansion into space buys you.

Re:Why? (2, Funny)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 6 years ago | (#19647033)

Oh, I don't disagree, but how exactly how you going to make everyone on Earth rich enough to become educated enough to reduce population growth?

Hmmm... Ah, damn it, let's neuter them!

Re:Why? (1)

FredDC (1048502) | more than 6 years ago | (#19647309)

Oh, I don't disagree, but how exactly how you going to make everyone on Earth rich enough to become educated enough to reduce population growth?

And how are you going to solve the issue of all these now rich and educated people wanting access to materials that are in limited supply?

That's what expansion into space buys you.


Look, the solution to overpopulation, poverty and environmental problems isn't going to come from falling from space! (Well, perhaps a large enough meteor could fix it, but that's a final resort thingy) And neither will it be fixed by launching things/people into space, the stuff/people you move will just be replaced. We, humanity, are going to have to learn to exercise some constraint. Otherwise we can invent, mine, colonize, ... whatever we want, the problems aren't going to go away!

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for these kind of scientific projects as they can be extremely positive in helping us cope with the issues that lie ahead of us. But at this moment, an elevator into space isn't gonna help us one bit, on the contrary! It'll just be an incentive to keep our consume-all mentality going. And with the way governments all around the world currently work, do you really think any of the new materials will reach the poor?

No, I firmly believe that we should get our act together first before venturing forth into space, and that we should not blindly believe it's gonna fix all or any of our problems!

Re:Why? (1)

Rupert (28001) | more than 6 years ago | (#19647053)

You'd need to put about 250,000 people per day into space just to keep Earth's population stable. What sort of habitat and what sort of society have you got up there that can accept an influx of 90 million people per year?

Not that I don't think it's important, but the scale of the population problem is such that it's not going to be solved by emigration even if we had a working space elevator now. And, of course, it gets exponentially worse every day until we solve it.

Disclaimer: I have two children and have been surgically prevented from having more.

Re:Why? (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646537)

What do you put on the end of the elevator? An amusement park? With hookers and blackjack?

I am *so* there. What's a ticket cost?

Re:Why? (1)

Eivind (15695) | more than 6 years ago | (#19647445)

Yeah. Hookers in zero-g would be quite popular I think. For those *with* a SO, a love-hotel would certainly also be. Seriously though, people demonstrably pay $20 million to visit cramped space-stations today. It's not much of a stretch to assume that the number of people willing to pay would increase if the price fell.

The 90s Called (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19646479)

They want their horrible web page design back.

Increased Pessimism (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19646505)

TropicalCoder asks, "After reading LiftPort's rebuttal to Slashdot critics, do any of you now feel your pessimism somewhat dispelled?"

Not at all. If anything my pessism has increased when I read the spin, handwaving, misdirection, and evasions in Mr Laine's 'rebuttal'.
 
For example, this little gem:
 
  Q: Business model is predicated on a technology that not only does not exist but you are incapable of inventing.
  A: That's true for the president of Boeing too. There's no way he could engineer the likes of the 777 with just the top level executives. He hires the right people to design, test and build these wonders of technology. Rather than waste our investors money on hiring full time engineers that could not succeed within the timeframe allowed by the dollars available, we subcontract. Outsourcing is not a new concept, and it saves companies quite a bit of money and time.
 
Notice the answer completely unrelated to the question and the 'spin'.
 
Or this one:
 
  Q: Perhaps should have been managed by a more highly qualified individual, such as a professional engineer with advanced engineering management degrees
  Because all engineers make good business administrators? Engineers are (and this is a generalization, I admit) generally too cautious. Innovators are risk takers. Entrepeneurs are risk takers. Engineers want triple redundancy and safety factors. To run a company for 4 years off a $200,000 investment takes talent. Granted, much more was invested by Mr. Laine himself, from his personal income, to keep this business running.
 
More spin - and the fantastic claim that running a business for $200k for four years implies some kind of 'talent'. Heck, I could run a business for two *centuries* with that kind of investment. (It wouldn't produce a profit - but it would be 'run' and about as effective as LiftPort.)
 
  Q: You'll never see a fully functional space elevator on earth. The requirements are too close to the edge of what is even theoretically possible.
  If it weren't for the costs, we could build one this year.
 
To put it bluntly - this is an outright lie. Period. if it were true - why is LiftPort spending money on R&D rather than production?
 
  Q: Even if the materials science isn't the problem, we have never made 36,000 miles of ANYTHING before.
  Roads? Railroads? The SMW3 fiber optic cable is 39,000km long. That's over a third of the 100,000km necessary to build the Elevator to Space (not 36,000 miles).
 
The SMW3 fiber optic cable isn't a unitary and (for all practical purposes) flawless carbon nanotube fiber. Roads and railroads aren't unitary either. Micheal is either very disingenuous or very clueless.
 
  Q: You need a material approximately 3 times the strength of a (perfect) carbon nanotube in order to be a relatively safe civil/space engineering construction.
  That goes back to my statement earlier about engineers. No. You're not going to be able to have triple redundancy, and safety factors. You will have safety margins, and one of our first cargoes would be the second space elevator. We should be able to build that with half the strength of "perfect" SWNTs. We will employ standards of safety. We're sure the international legal community would see to that. About half the team grew up near the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The failure of this bridge is a standard lesson in how NOT to engineer something for most engineering schools. We understand what is at stake.
 
I too live near the Tacoma Narrows Bridge - and no, that is not how the bridge collapse is taught in engineering schools. Because in fact, the basic engineering of the bridge was quite sound - they failed however to take into account the effects of the winds. Numerous bridges of the same basic engineering design and era, but not built in the unique wind conditions of the Tacoma Narrows, still stand today.
 
  We're going to decline to comment on the personal attacks against our corporate officer, Michael Laine. His past business venture failed. Most entrepreneurs can also claim that dubious distinction on one or more occasions. It is better to have tried and failed than to have not tried at all.
 
Funny how you fail to mention the fact of your past failures on your webite - in fact, you represent them as sucesses. I suspect much of what he represents as 'personal attacks' are nothing more than inconvient facts like these.
 
Etc... Etc...
 
 

Michael came across as a rather sober, likable fellow, not at all like the crackpot image one would conjure up from reading many of the Slashdot comments.

At no point during the conversation did I get any impression of a huckster who would sell you the Brooklyn Bridge, something that I was on the lookout for. It was clear to me that he sincerely believes in what he is doing.

 
The problem isn't that Micheal is a crackpot or a huckster - he sincerly believes what he is selling. The problem is that once he gets a Vision, facts need no longer apply - his Vision overrides all.
 
I knew Micheal, and was braced by him back in the day to invest in his internet schemes. But it didn't take much savvy to realize how disconnected his schemes were from reality. He even tried to lecture me on how the internet commerce worked, even though I'd been running an internet based retail business (connected to my bricks and mortar business) for some months at that point! (Not that he ever bothered to ask.)
 
He's a good fellow, and I'd gladly share a beer and ballgame with him - but I wouldn't invest one red cent with him.

I don't think Liftport will work and here's why... (2, Insightful)

i_b_don (1049110) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646535)

It has nothing to do with the technical hurdles with are significant to begin with it has everything to do with the owner's Michael J. Laine's personality. First off, I'm a design engineer by profession and I've led up a fair number of projects, however going 100% off of my interpersonal skills I don't think Mr Laine will succeed.

There are several things that a good entrepreneur needs in order to be successful on a project like this. The first of is he/she needs to be charismatic in person and in presenting the idea to other people. I mean, incredibly and unbelievably charismatic, so that only the most hard core doubters would walk away from a talk with him thinking "it can't be done". Frankly I didn't get that from Mr Laine. To me at least he came off as combative he didn't show me the "spark" that I would expect to see from a Steve Jobs or other figure who can really energize investors and employees.

Failing that, then they will need some hard core technical skills to work with the team of engineers who will eventually make the technical leaps required to do something revolutionary. This I certainly don't get from Mr Laine. His attitude of "I'll contract out innovation" doesn't strike me as someone who will make a small miracle happen in his woefully underfunded project.

And that's it. I don't even have to get into the technical issues in any depth and I'm already convinced that I should invest my money elsewhere. Sorry Mr. Laine, I bear no malice against you as a person, but you had your 5 min presentation and I came away unconvinced.

d

Re:I don't think Liftport will work and here's why (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19646641)

I "worked" for Laine in the early 2000s. You could hardly call it a job, as he was employing high school students at the time to run his entire operation, paying them below minimum wage in what was surely a violation of local labor laws. He was running a struggling dot-com at the time, and he certainly provided no solid direction or achievable goals for the small band of web designers and techies that were crammed into his crummy office building with a broken elevator - which, it appears he's still hanging out in these days.

Most of what you see in him sounds spot-on to me, from what I knew of him. He's a nice enough guy, but unless things have changed, he wasn't much of a business leader in any sense of the word. I'm really surprised that LiftPort is still alive. I would have figured the thing would have crumbled by now under the weight of its own far-fetched premise.

Painful Read (4, Insightful)

hardburn (141468) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646615)

Reading the Slashdotters' comments was really painful. Do people around here lack vision and research skills?

Carbon nanotubes are a miracle material. Not just for space elevators, but also for strengthening building/vehicle frames and nanotech. Any research on mass production of high-quality carbon nanotubes will have plenty of spill-over effect.

Unrolling the initial fabric from orbit down to the surface without snagging is a challenge, but hardly an impossible one.

Tesla was playing with remote power transmission a century ago. There's still work to be done, but all the major breakthroughs are in place.

Speed to orbit? Why do you need to go fast? People used to take months to cross the Atlantic, and the treasures offered by cheep space travel are massive compared to the treasures of the New World. Or just send up cargo on the elevator and send people on a rocket (expensive and dangerous in comparison, but quick).

In short, this wasn't Slashdot's finest moment.

Re:Painful Read (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19646709)

Speed to orbit? Why do you need to go fast?
Probably has something to do with the energy requirements of fighting that pesky gravity. The longer you take to climb, the more energy you need. This is one of the many many fundamental problems with a "space elevator" no matter how you slice it.

Re:Painful Read (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19647391)

What are you, a retard? There's no energy requirement for a climber to remain still on the elevator -- it's exactly like climbing a rope. Even better, since gravity decreases the further you get from Earth, so the cargo weighs less and less, gaining you a decreasing energy requirement, not increasing. If you can manage the tensile strength requirements, a space elevator is practically a magic wand for getting cargo cheaply into space.
  It's just no good for people, though, because space is to radiation as the ocean is to salt, and shielding is heavy. Two or three days straight with little to no shielding and somebody's getting cancer.

Speed to Orbit (Re:Painful Read) (1)

amck (34780) | more than 6 years ago | (#19647225)

Speed to orbit? Why do you need to go fast? People used to take months to cross the Atlantic, and the treasures offered by cheep space travel are massive compared to the treasures of the New World. Or just send up cargo on the elevator and send people on a rocket (expensive and dangerous in comparison, but quick).


The reason speed to orbit is important is the Van Allen radiation belts. You can't afford to spend several days passing through them to orbit.
You also can't afford to put much shielding on the lift climbers - they're severely weight constrained. This makes space elevators useful for cargo, maybe,
but not humans, unless you come up with a Magic Wand ( (TM) Charlie Stross) breakthrough.

Now on the Moon, or Mars, the situation looks a lot better ...

Re:Painful Read (1)

Eivind (15695) | more than 6 years ago | (#19647417)

You need to go fast to make the entire thing cost-efficient. The entire point is providing cheaper access to space.

The ribbon has a fixed capacity for carrying cargo, let's say it can carry 10e3 kgs of cargo.

Distance to geosynch is 36000km, so if you where moving at 36km/h you'd need 1000 hours, or about 41.5 days. A naive calculation would mean this allows only 10 launches/year for a total of 10e4 kgs to orbit. Which is no longer cost-effective, it's about what a single saturn-V can lift. Furthermore, if the cargo is humans, it gets worse, because they'll need consumables (food, air etc) for that month, which further cuts back on useful cargo.

Now, in reality it's better than that because gravity decreases as the cargo ascends, by the time the cargo has climbed one earth-radius, the force on the cable is only 1/4th of what it was when the cargo launched.

Still, it doesn't change the basic fact that going twice as fast allows for launching twice as often, which makes it a lot easier to finance the thing.

Their design calls for 200km/h, and a so on the order of a week to orbit.

Climbing vertically alon a tape at 200km/h is nontrivial, especially at a full G, but it gets easier as the cargo gets higher, because gravity decreases.

right about some things, wrong about others (5, Interesting)

Goldsmith (561202) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646629)

Let me preface this by saying I work with carbon nanotubes (as an "innovator," not an engineer).

Where these guys are right on is that building a CNT factory would generate the kind of money they need to get going, especially if they can reliably grow high quality tubes. They are absolutely right that spin off technologies could more than make up for their current investments. But, as they recently found out, nanotubes are very hard to grow in large amounts, and they grow very slowly... hence the current high cost.

That leads to where they went wrong: They had "contractors" working on nanotube growth. It's not easy to grow CNTs, and it's not well understood. It's very difficult to reproduce published work on CNT growth unless you really, really know what you're doing. They need to form partnerships with the people working with nanotubes who are on the cutting edge of growth research. While they've tried and failed to build a factory, Iijima's group has made major breakthroughs in growing nanotubes in bulk, and he's the obvious person to start off trying to get on board with this (as a well known Nobel laureate working with nanotubes). If not his group, then any number of dedicated CNT-growth research groups in the US.

At some point, it would not be a bad idea to let a scientist into the upper management of a space elevator company. Just as a smart inventor will let go of some control of a company to a business person, these business people would have been wise to let a scientist make some of their decisions.

By (publicly, at least) focusing on robotics, they missed the boat on one key technology they needed which would have also provided them with the funds to keep everything else going. Hopefully whoever takes over leadership of the space elevator community has more luck.

Shift Key (2, Insightful)

afaik_ianal (918433) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646653)

In other news, the founder of LiftPort has found his shift key [slashdot.org] .

I think I lost any remaining respect I had for him when I read through his comments in the previous discussion. It might seem like a minor thing, but if the guy can't be bothered with little details like spelling, grammar, and correct capitalisation, then what were his chances of ever getting the SEC filings done correctly?

It made him look like the kind of person who constantly churns. People like that can't focus on anything but developing their latest and greatest idea, and are unable or unwilling to ever do anything because they're already onto the next thing.

Re:Shift Key (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19646765)

it could just be some random dude pretending to be him and purposefully acting like a shitcock, or he could just be using poor punctuation. either way, it could really help his creditability to register accounts on any sites on which he plans to have an open discussion. michael j laine president liftport group.

great rebuttal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19646735)

it is clear you are working hard on something your team believes in. That should be applauded. Others saying it "can't" be done, that is easy to say and then go have more frito's. It is those who say it "can" be done that move the world.

Unless someone has spent some serious time reviewing the problems of space elevators, it will be hard for them to give any real indication of timelines or possibilities.

Great job Liftport!

Nvidia (3, Insightful)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 6 years ago | (#19646947)

Microsoft, IBM, GE, Ford... All these companies base many of their product designs on future technology. If you started designing
a computer program around the computers available at the beginning of the design process, or designed the program on your
prediction of the computers available at the end of the development process, the latter would be the better product - suited to
the technology available at the time the consumers were ready to use it.


Nvidia does too. Like, the GeForce FX series of their cards. They were to be released together with DirectX 9. Except that nobody knew what DX9 would support and due to some disagreement between Nvidia and Microsoft, Microsoft wouldn't tell. So Nvidia was "predicting the features of DirectX 9". That is, guessing. And guess what? They guessed wrong. GeForce FX was packed with wonderful features which had no support whatsoever in the OS, while features required by DX9 were quickly hacked into the drivers and worked at snail speed in software emulation.

Sure -sometimes- the predictions work. But when it doesn't, it fails hard.

Science fiction (0, Flamebait)

lazy genes (741633) | more than 6 years ago | (#19647025)

Why is this in the science section.Please,start a science fiction section for this type of stuff.

ft.? (1)

kwikrick (755625) | more than 6 years ago | (#19647027)

They measure their tethered towers in feet? They cannot be serious about science. Geostationary orbit is at 36000 KM. Who builds a spacecraft to go to 118110236 ft? Yuck.

Space Guns anyone? (4, Informative)

Ignatius (6850) | more than 6 years ago | (#19647131)

I know it's slightly offtopic, but I always wonder why a highly speculative and fragile concept like the space elevator which is barely theoretically possible is getting so much press, while space guns, which are cheaper, more robust and don't require any new technology, are practically ignored.

In case you're not familiar with the concept: It's basically about accelerating a small vessel (by a light gas gun, a RAM accelerator, electromagnetically or a combination thereof) in a relatively short (about the order of one km) barrel / tunnel to about orbital speed. The vessel itself will only require enough fuel for circularizing its orbit, so unlike conventional boosters, a much bigger part of its mass can be actual payload as the exponential regime of the rocket equation can be mostly avoided.

While the capital costs will be high, a space gun is still dirt cheap compared to a space elevator, and isn't prone to be completely destroyed when hit by lightning, space debris or, for the matter, a shotgun.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_gun [wikipedia.org]
http://www.fas.org/news/iraq/1998/05/980500-bull.h tm [fas.org]
http://www.astronautix.com/lvs/julncher.htm [astronautix.com]

Start collecting old high-quality plastic now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19647189)

I have a skateboard from the 80's with plastic trucks and board and wheels that seems somewhat indestructible compared to standard decks. Did we use up all the high-quality oil? Now what do we build the elevator cord out of? Can the long chains of carbon be duplicated through nanotech production or does it take millions of years?

Why is when i read... (1)

pjr.cc (760528) | more than 6 years ago | (#19647305)

Why is it when i read about the space elevator i think of the episode on the Simpsons where Marge says: "And that was the only folly the people of Springfield ever embarked upon. Except for the popsicle stick skyscraper... etc"

Interesting read though...

Building a space elevator the easy way (1, Troll)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#19647413)

1: There is no current technology which could be used to build a space elevator. Even if there was, it would be decades before it was complete.
2: There is no engineering knowledge on how to build such a structure.
3: You know it's going to cost billions. Frankly, it's almost certainly going to cost trillions to build. That money isn't in place, but then a space elevator isn't going to be feasible for decades. If you think taxation should pay for it you can fuck right off, this elevator is something you want, I couldn't care less.

So. Today, the only thing you can even plan to do is to generate the cash which might just be used to finance the space elevator. That means an investment fund invested in relatively high risk/return securities, with enough return to allow grants to be skimmed off for promising materials and engineering research. In 20 or 30 years there may be enough cash to get something off the ground.

If you really want a space elevator, this is what you need to do. If you're not doing it... It can't really matter that much to you.

 

Bravo Mr. Laine! (1)

weightman (1120253) | more than 6 years ago | (#19647457)

Mr. Laine and colleagues, Everyone to ever attempt anything truly grand in the history of the world has faced ridicule for it. It is a great honor for you and your team to join their company. I am sure these people in love with the idea of sitting atop a controlled explosion now were the same type that scoffed at the notion of launching a rocket into space in the first place, landing on the moon, launching a space telescope, or anything else their tiny imagination can conceive. At one time all these things were "impossible" for them to believe. Bravo Mr. Laine. I can't give you any of the money you need right now, but I will gladly join your forum, subscribe to your newsletter, and support you anyway I can. Primarily right now, all I can give is my sincere expression of gratitude to you for offering me the kind of inspiration so often lacking in this world full of such small minds. Thank you very much.
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