Lift off!? Space Elevators may move from Sci-fi to Real-sci.
Taking and elevator into orbit may sound like a preposterous idea, the realm of way out there science fiction. Indeed, until recently it was. The idea was first proposed by Russian engineer Yuri Artsutanov, in 1960.
The idea has been featured in numerous science fiction stories, the first of which was Arthur C. Clarkes 'Fountains of Paradise'. This is what Clarke had to say about the idea a Times , article from Sept. 24, 2005.
"When I wrote it (Fountains), I considered it little more than a fascinating thought experiment. At that time, the only material from which it could be built — diamond — was not readily available in sufficient megaton quantities. This situation has now changed, with the discovery of the third form of carbon, C60, and its relatives, the Buckminsterfullerenes. If these can be mass-produced, building a space elevator would be a completely viable engineering proposition."
The idea is really simple. A superstrong cable or ribbon is strung from the earth to a stationary satellite whose centripedal force maintains the cable under tension as a lift moves up and down the cable. Of all the ways to move out of the space-age pleistocene, this seems like the best.
For more information on the space elevator some teams working to make it possible:
Arthur C. Clarkes Times article:
thanks to Bruce Sterling's Wired magazine blog for the Clarke link.
Image courtesy of Brad Edwards/ISR