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All Aboard the Space Elevator

By Dave Reneke

Dave Reneke brings news from the space and astronomy communities around the world.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

All Aboard the Space Elevator

Imagine this! A cable, 50,000 km long, anchored below the ocean to an orbiting space platform that allows cargo, and even people, to climb up. Sounds incredible doesn’t it, but it is possible. In fact, it’s being built now! It’s called a “space elevator” and it’s an idea that’s really out of this world!

There will be no blast of rocket fire and smoke, and no lift-off G forces: just step on the elevator and press the “up” button and step off 8 days later at a platform thousands of kilometres in outer space. The elevator can travel at 200 km/h and could be what space agencies are looking for – safe access to space at low cost.

Space elevators offer a cheaper, safer form of space travel that eventually could be used to carry explorers to the planets. It could reduce the costs of putting payloads into orbit from around the present US$40,000/kg to less than US$250/kg. Quite a saving! Around 94% of the weight of a conventional rocket consists of fuel and other expendable infrastructure.

The space elevator concept is not new. It was proposed years ago but quietly shelved, except for word that reached renowned author Arthur C. Clarke’s inventive ear. His book, The Fountains of Paradise, reinserted the cable concept into the scientific community and made the public aware of the potentials of space elevators...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

David Reneke is an astronomy lecturer and teacher, a feature writer for major Australian newspapers and magazines, and a science correspondent for ABC and commercial radio. Subscribe to David’s free Astro-Space newsletter at www.davidreneke.com