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Space Technology

Report: Space Elevators Are Feasible 374

Daniel_Stuckey writes "It's the scourge of futurists everywhere: The space elevator can't seem to shake its image as something that's just ridiculous, laughed off as the stuff of sci-fi novels and overactive imaginations. But there are plenty of scientists who take the idea quite seriously, and they're trying to buck that perception. To that end, a diverse group of experts at the behest of the International Academy of Astronautics completed an impressively thorough study this month on whether building a space elevator is doable. Their resulting report, 'Space Elevators: An Assessment of the Technological Feasibility and the Way Forward,' found that, in a nutshell, such a contraption is both totally feasible and a really smart idea. And they laid out a 300-page roadmap detailing how to make it happen."
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Report: Space Elevators Are Feasible

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  • Laughable what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:30AM (#46342741)

    It's the scourge of futurists everywhere: The space elevator can't seem to shake its image as something that's just ridiculous, laughed off as the stuff of sci-fi novels and overactive imaginations.

    I've first heard of space elevators decades ago, and not once have I read or heard anyone saying it's a ridiculous or laughable idea. All I've heard is that it'd be a really great, smart and economical way to access space, if only a strong and light material could be found to prevent the cable from being several miles across in diameter at the base and collapse under its own weight. Where did the story's submitter get that from?

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:33AM (#46342755) Homepage Journal

    One of the things I don't see discussed much is the potential failure modes for such a system.

    My wife is a physical oceanographer, and one of the failure modes for instruments deployed on cables from a ship is a 'wuzzle' -- a large tangle of steel cable. Given the nature of the stuff, a length of cable that fits nicely in a spool on deck can twist itself into a knot larger than the ship.

    So one thing I'd like to know is what are the potential hazards a couple thousand miles of elevator cable falling to the Earth's surface? Could we end up with tangles miles in diameter?

    I think a space elevator is a great idea if it's feasible, provided that in the criteria for "feasible" we include being prepared for the conceivable ways the project could fail.

  • Re:Flying pigs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lisaparratt ( 752068 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @05:26AM (#46343597)

    Protective polymer coating, topped up every time the car passes over it?

  • by kamapuaa ( 555446 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @05:33AM (#46343625) Homepage

    Arthur C Clarke was not what most people would think of as a scientist (a job leading scientific research for a university or company or so forth). Nor did his scientific speculations revolve around applying the scientific method, which is a good description of what a scientist does in a very broad sense.

  • by Adam Jorgensen ( 1302989 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @06:01AM (#46343731)

    I'm not sure Star Trek should be considered in the same sentence as talk of viable space exploration the future.

    Utopian thinking is nice but it's an ideal not a potential reality.

  • by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @08:45AM (#46344491)

    what it'll take it for China to start weaponising space, "for their own defence" and then funding will immediately be made available to get other countries weapons system up there.

    Why else did the US go to the Moon - it was because there was a chance the Russians might have found a way to put missiles on there of course, all dressed up as exploration and "good of mankind".

    So c'mon China - we're bored of terrorists, we need a new 'enemy' to spend vast sums defending against! you guys are the only ones with enough cash to do anything.

  • by Baby Duck ( 176251 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:26PM (#46347421) Homepage
    Unfortunately, it's also highly feasible as a terrorist target. How are you going to patrol the entire span of the cable for kamikazes?
  • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @05:05PM (#46350455)

    No more imperial powers? Seriously? You know where the European Space Agency launches their rockets from? French Guiana, which is a French territory in South America. Then of course there's the 800 lb gorilla. The US has actual territories around much of the world, from the Atlantic to the western Pacific, occupied or controlled countries around the rest, and military bases pretty much everywhere.

    If a major nation wants to have an equatorial space elevator base they'll pick an appropriate country, throw some money at them, and get it.

"We shall reach greater and greater platitudes of achievement." -- Richard J. Daley