An Elevator to Space, a Reality

Posted Dec 7, 2009 by Kassandra Garcia
Arthur C. Clarke wrote about traveling into space on an elevator. The book was published nearly 30 years ago and was titled "2001." Now, the race is on to build the "fictional" creation.
With $2 Million on the table for a kilometer high prototype of an elevator, scientists are competing to build what will become an elevator into space. Sounds crazy, right? Well, reality is that research has been going on for quite some time to make space travel less expensive, safer and quicker.
An elevator would allow large groups of people and/or cargo into space with less effort then with a traditional rocket. However, the limitations involved include:
1. The length and strength of the cables needed to support an elevator or structure that needs to be 22,000 miles long.
2. A satellite fixed over the equator
3. Funding for such a project, estimated costs are around $20 Billion
4. Space and Property for the base of the elevator.
5. Continuing research to further study the viability and cost of such a project.
These challenges and many others hold up the possibilities of creating such an "out of this world" structure. The experts do have high hopes for the future, though. Professor Brendan Quine, from York University, has a team working on solving one problem at a time. Currently, they have built a scale prototype that is three stories high and when build to full size would go up 13 miles. The problem there is that at 13 miles up gravity is still involved and orbit will not be achieved. With small steps researchers, scientists and engineers are working towards higher heights and larger loads.
The cost of a ride on an elevator of this size would cost $1,000 per ticket. And what would someone do when they got to top of the elevator? Vacation, eat and shop of course. In a tourist driven project, some speculate that a large space station with shopping, hotels and restaurants would be accessible to visitors.
We, as tourists, could see the technology needed to build such a creation, in as little as 10 years. However, the time to research it after the means and ability is there, the funding and the building of it, it could still be 30 + years aways from being a reality.
For the interview with Quine and more on this story go to CNN Tech: Can scientists make a space elevator?