Monday, July 21, 2008

One Long Elevator Ride

Alan Boyle over at MSNBC's Cosmic Log reports from the 2008 Space Elevator Conference, co-sponsored by Microsoft. For the most part, the attendees were—not surprisingly—very positive about the prospects of a space elevator within the next few decades. The only exception mentioned was Tom Nugent of LaserMotive, a company that makes laser power-beaming equipment used in the Space Elevator Games. Tom used to work for LiftPort Group, a failed company that had an overly-ambitious plan to build a space elevator.

A space elevator would be a massive enabling technology for human exploration and development of space by greatly lowering the cost of putting pretty much anything in orbit. But will it ever be feasible to do on Earth? There are a large number of technological hurdles to be overcome, including the creation of materials strong enough to support the weight of a 62,000-mile tether and whatever we decide to send along it. Plus somebody needs to figure out ways to deal with hazards such as space debris and radiation.

But with enough R&D, a space elevator should be possible. After all, nothing about it violates the laws of physics.

The Space Elevator Blog has a series of posts with more detailed updates throughout the conference, so if you're interested in space elevator concepts, you should check it out.

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