Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935), Soviet physicist known as the father of cosmonauts, A seed was left in 1895, which is beginning to sprout ever more in the minds of scholars on a global scale: elevatorInspired by the Eiffel Tower, which connects the Earth’s surface to space.
It took Russian engineer Yuri Artsutanov 65 years to embrace the idea and update it in his article To the Universe by Electric Rail. “A trip into the universe with the help of a rocket will never be like a boat trip or a tram trip,” he said, reflecting that the occupants of that vehicle must endure “the chains of gravity”, “high acceleration” and “the fierce effort of strained engines.” So designing a very tall elevator will solve these inconveniences.
In 2014, Obayashi Corporation announced the construction of space elevator, by a press release. However, the results of logistics management will be appreciated only in 2050. The elevator will consist of a “cable of carbon nanotubes It has an area of 96,000 km, a floating land port with a diameter of 400 m and a counterweight of 12,500 tons”, at an approximate cost of $9000 million.
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As maximum cable tension at the geostationary orbit point – from west to east – , 35,786 km above the equator Earth, very strong, was proposed in 2000 to include in the above plan carbon nanotubes, small hollow channels with interlocking particles, 20 times more resistant than steel.
According to theoretical estimates, even a thread made of that material the size of a thread would support the weight of the car.
American researcher Bradley C. Edwards has designed and improved the cable for the massive project so that it can withstand the attack of microsteroids. Although NASA carefully reviewed its study, specifying that the lift should be in the western tropical Pacific Ocean, in addition to the budget and risks to the environment, nothing has been mentioned so far.
Scientists from Obayashi Corp believe that the space elevator can accommodate up to 30 people inside a cabin driven by an electric motor at a speed of 200 km/h for eight days. The concept also raises and lowers heavy loads using 100 times less investment than taking off a rocket; Renewable energy will allow this technology to address a critical economic advantage during start-up operations.
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Experimental tests of a space elevator
The Raptor team of Nihon University (Japan), led by Yoshio Aoki, Professor in the Department of Engineering and Precision Instruments, has already participated in four European Space Elevator Challenge (translated into Spanish as European Space Elevator Challenge) prepared by the Technical University of Munich (Germany), where they are testing the feasibility of mechanical structures.
“The honeycomb-like design allowed the main frame to be as hollow as possible, thus reducing weight by 60% while achieving sufficient rigidity and an attractive appearance,” said Kaishu Koike, a member of the Raptor team, responsible for programming. vignette.
Based on simulations, the university researchers achieved an ascent speed of 110 km / h; They preserved the effectiveness of the braking system by applying the maximum weight. In this way, eight 1.1-kilogram payloads were successfully transported, in contrast to the first rigorous tests.
In the words of Yoshio Aoki, Technique The transport space elevator will not be available before 2030. However, security protocols for induced and chance disasters have not yet been established; Therefore, “if there are more companies supporting it,” the new system will be built in real proportions.
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China is also considering its own space elevator
As part of the roadmap for future space missions to Mars, in June this year, Wang Xiaojun, director of the Chinese Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), integrated the construction of a space elevator. He made his remarks at the World Conference on Space Exploration (GLEX 2021).
According to Global Times, this plan consists of three steps: sending androids to collect samples from the Martian environment and explore the surface; inhabited mission whose members build settlements; And moving the freight fleet through a space elevator called Heaven’s ladder, as a starting point.
Transporting goods to the Moon, for example, would represent only 4% of the current cost. The difference is clear.
Communications portal Sina News stated that the manned missions will be carried out at five different times: 2033, 2035, 2037, 2041 and 2043.
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The space elevator in fantasy
British writer and scientist Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) published his book The Sources of Heaven (1979), an event that earned him fame as one of the greatest promoters of space elevators. However, there is disagreement as to whether the origin of the idea originated from the mind Charles Sheffield, a physicist who touched on the same topic in his novel “The Spider’s Web Between Worlds” (1979).
Clarke elaborated the details and interventions of the 30th International Astronautical Congress in the same year with his speech entitled “The Space Elevator: A Thought Experiment or the Key to the Universe”.
Some references to technology:
- In the first person shooter video game Halo
- In Toph’s Travels by George RR Martin (Game of Thrones)
- In the fourth season of Star Wars: the clone wars, in Episode 86, Bounty
- In the books of the Three Bodies Trilogy by Liu Zixin.
With or without an elevator connecting our planet to the vastness of the sky, commercial space tourism will take its last step of success, an escape from the imagination, thanks to the advancement of Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, two companies convinced that humanity deserves to jump to another level of interaction with the vast universe. Other enthusiasts will undoubtedly join the race.
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