Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Going up?

Elevator to the stars

(CNN, Friday, June 25, 2004 Posted: 10:08 PM EDT (0208 GMT) )

President Bush wants to return to the moon and put a man on Mars. But scientist Bradley C. Edwards has an idea that's really out of this world: an elevator that climbs 62,000 miles into space. . . .

Edwards' elevator would climb on a cable made of nanotubes _ tiny bundles of carbon atoms many times stronger than steel. The cable would be about three feet wide and thinner than a piece of paper, but capable of supporting a payload up to 13 tons.

The cable would be attached to a platform on the equator, off the Pacific coast of South America where winds are calm, weather is good and commercial airplane flights are few. The platform would be mobile so the cable could be moved to get out of the path of orbiting satellites. . . .

The space elevator is not a new idea. A Russian scientist, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, envisioned it a century ago. And Arthur C. Clarke's novel "The Fountains of Paradise," published in 1979, talks of a space elevator 24,000 miles high, and permanent colonies on the moon, Mercury and Mars. . . .

He envisions launching sections of cable into space on rockets. A "climber" -- his version of an elevator car -- would then be attached to the cable and used to add more lengths of cable until eventually it stretches down to the Earth. A counterweight would be attached to the end in space.

Edwards likens the design to "spinning a ball on a string around your head." The string is the cable and the ball on the end is a counterweight. The Earth's rotation would keep the cable taut.

The elevator would be powered by photo cells that convert light into electricity. A laser attached to the platform could be aimed at the elevator to deliver the light, Edwards said.

I would hate to get stuck in this thing. Then again, such would have good potential to outdo the opening scene in the movie Speed.

("Zero-gravity pop quiz, hot shot!")

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