Space elevator: audacious idea will open space to entrepreneurs

April 30 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future
Category: Space   Year: General   Rating: 9 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard the Space Elevator. Your first stop will be ‘Hotel Row’ where we will enjoy a 2-hour dinner under the stars; then we continue on to the Geosynchronous Way Station where most of you will transfer to an L-5 Colony shuttlecraft. This entire ride takes 8 days, so sit back and enjoy the trip from your luxury sleeping quarters”.

This scene may sound like science fiction, but it is not. According to visionaries, the Space Elevator, a revolutionary means of transport from Earth to space could become reality by as early as 2030 or before.

Here is how it will work: A special rocket-launched satellite in geo-synchronous orbit would drop a ribbon made from nano-materials to a platform in the sea near the equator. The stationary ribbon will eventually extend to 62,000 miles high and allow 20-ton elevator cars to climb into space at 120 mph using electricity generated from solar-power and lasers.

Two Seattle startups, Michael Laine’s Liftport Group, and Brad Edwards’ Sedco are competing to build this risky project. Both believe they can do it over the next couple of decades at a cost of about $20 billion. This radical new system is expected to lower costs of hauling stuff into space from $10,000 per pound to $100 and eventually to $10 per pound. A 200 lb person could travel to space for $2,000.

This enterprising endeavor promises affordable orbital access, which will attract entrepreneurs from around the world seeking a piece of the lucrative space market. PayPal founder Elon Musk, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos are among the more recognizable names investing in this and other space-related activities.(cont.)

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