While this is characteristically off topic for a blog entry from the scholarly Wpromoter, I just couldn’t resist jumping on the opportunity to talk about something as cool as space ladders! Yes, that’s right, space ladders. As soon as one might hear the concept of a “space ladder,” more than one idea might come to mind. Is it a nefarious plan to condemn the whole world to bad luck? Or are we just trying to make an altogether simpler and more efficient way to transport people and cargo way up yonder into the reaches of space? As it turns out, there have actually been multiple attempts to make a space ladder, and despite the failures, Japan has announced that they will be tackling the idea, and they are bringing a few new ideas to the table that they think could make this Arthur C. Clarke, sci-fi dream, materialize in the real world.
The future is upon us, and that idea can be seen in the attitude that Shuichi Ono (chairman of the Japan Space Elevator Association) had when he said, “Just like traveling abroad, anyone will be able to ride the elevator into space.” While this seems a little exaggerated or that the chairman is getting a little ahead of himself, it is a novel concept to think about. As the earth becomes more and more charted and documented, it makes sense that progressively we are going to look more and more into going into space, and getting off this rock.
There are specifics to this operation as well, or at least as specific as you can get with a theoretical project. It is estimated that about 7.3 billion dollars will be thrown at this project, and that the breakthrough method of really hoisting up an “elevator-carriage” would be through a complex system of carbon nanotubes. This idea came up because, currently, the biggest hurdle to the project is the need for composite cabling that is 180 times stronger than steel and much, much lighter than it. Carbon nanotubing is theorized to be able to accomplish this task, as well as be able to be a method to provide power to the apparatus, as the carbon nanotubing is a good conductor of electricity.
While the suggested uses for the elevator have been as sublime as lifting up giant solor panels to provide the earth electricity, to as nefarious as using it to slingshot our nuclear waste off the planet and make it someone or something else’s problem, it really is a riveting spectacle. One day we really might have an elevator to the stars. All I know is that Arthur C Clarke aside, they really should reference the ol’ board game Chutes and Ladders because I better one day be riding a giant space slide back to Earth.