Monday, September 18, 2006

Top Floor...Space Station...Lingerie...Food Court

As a fan of science fiction, the idea put forth by a "space elevator" is very intriguing. It is a fantastic idea. And the great thing is that the idea is being discussed in a serious, project-path way. By that I mean people are talking and work is coming. I'm all for this grand idea. I'll even take a risk and ride if it comes to be.
Rooted in science fiction, the space elevator is a colossal project that would take years to finish. According to the article, "the basic premise involves an elevator that would travel from its base station up a cable tethered at the other end to a counterweight in geo-stationary orbit." In simple terms, it's an elevator that would go from the Earth, leave the atmosphere, and end at some platform in space. Most people would say that this is simply impossible physically and a but silly. But according to Robert Cassanova at NASA, "there is nothing wrong with the physics of it. If enough funding is found, it's possible we could see a space elevator in about 20 years."
An extreme idea that would take extreme engineering and an extremely large amount of money. But once built, the ease of near-Earth space travel would be unbelievable. The short-term goals for such a project would be to transport satellites, supplies, and astronauts more easily into space. But of course no one will support this gesture if it is not mentioned that tourists could also one day use the structure.
A feat of extreme engineering would be required for this to work. According to Dr Bradley Edwards, the structure would be, "paper-thin ribbon of approximately one meter in width composed of multiple strings of nanotubes - essentially sheets of graphite, a lattice of carbon - seamlessly rolled into long tubes that are only nanometers in diameter." The whole thing would be solar power and move at 120 mph. Edwards also said that using the elevator would slash prices of transporting items.
In my opinion, there is no reason why this can't or shouldn't be done. The risk involved is great, but if we never take risk, we never get anything done. Risk taking is what got us into space exploration. It is going to take more risk to make this work. I also think that the private sector should be brought in for funding. No government, and definitely not our own, will never pay the bill on this project.

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