Space Elevators?


Meghan Neal highlights a report from last year that says they’re not so crazy after all:

What made people stop laughing? Nanotech. Carbon nanotubes were developed in the 90s and promised to be the uber-strong, light, flexible supermaterial needed to build the kind of 62,000-mile cable that could transport humans into space. By the end of the 90s, NASA had released its report on the technological progress: “Space Elevators: An Advanced Earth-Space Infrastructure for the New Millennium.”

This month’s [International Academy of Astronautics (IAA)] report gives something of an update. “The materials currently being tested in the laboratory have surpassed that level and promise a tether that can withstand the environmental and operational stresses necessary,” it states. “Will it end up being carbon nanotubes, or boron nitrite materials, or something else?”

Nanomaterials are strong and light enough, but the rub is that scientists can’t get them to scale yet. Luckily, billions of dollars are being poured into this area of research. The report predicts a suitable material will be ready by the 2020s.

Good news for Newt’s moon base.

(Illustration: Space elevator by Dean Ellis from Omni, July 1981)