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Saturday, August 24, 2002

Space Elevator Soon a Reality? ... Yes

Arthur C. Clarke
Arthur C. Clarke
Credit: Unknown
(National Post) - The fantastic notion of a space elevator -- a concept that first appeared in a Russian technical journal in the early 1960s and then crept into the works of science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke in the 1970s -- could be a reality before long. Seattle-based HighLift Systems is hosting a conference this week to meet with investors and other parties potentially interested in a device that could open the final frontier to the masses within 15 years because of the space elevator's relatively low costs and extremely high traffic volume. NASA has given HighLift a US$570,000 grant to continue research into the elevator and the company has received an indication of support from the European Space Agency, which has representatives attending the Seattle conference. "With a system as inexpensive as ours, every nation could have a space program. Most universities could have a space program. And a few corporations could have their own space program," said Michael Laine, the company's president. Unlike the science fiction version, this space elevator need not be anchored improbably both to Earth and an asteroid. Instead, it would be tethered just to Earth from a floating platform in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. From there, a 100,000-kilometre-long ribbon about one metre wide with the thickness of a sheet of paper would be propelled by rockets beyond the point in space where orbiting objects remain above a fixed point on the Earth's surface, the so-called geosynchronous orbit. The elevator would be kept in place by the competing forces of gravity at the lower end of the shaft, and, at the far end, outward acceleration.

- posted by Alex @ 10:34 EST