A mere 30 years after Arthur C. Clarke first mooted the idea of running super-thin, lightweight cables into space and tethering them to a satellite in his book The Fountains of Paradise, Japanese scientists reckon they’re ready to bring all the parts together and make it happen.
For a relatively low in space travel terms bill of £5bn, the boffins think they’re close to solving the carbon nanotube technology issue that could make the existence of 22,000 mile-long cables possible. That amount of rope or even Ethernet cable would snap under its own weight, but carbon nanotubes are light enough to go from Earth to a satellite. They just need to be made four-times stronger than they are today.
The Japanese scheme apparently favours stringing up an additional nanotube alongside the elevator to carry the power, allowing the cars to power themselves into space using a similar system used by the Japanese bullet trains. They are so serious about it they have registered a domain name – check out the Japan Space Elevator Association for more news. It’s in Japanese, mind.
(Via The Times)
By Gary Cutlack | September 22nd, 2008