28 May 2007

Space Elevators and Other Cosmic Quandaries

A space elevator is a proposed structure designed to transport material from a celestial body's surface into space. Many different types of space elevators have been suggested. They all share the goal of replacing rocket propulsion with the traversal of a fixed structure via a mechanism not unlike an elevator in order to move material into or beyond orbit.

Space elevators have also sometimes been referred to as beanstalks, space bridges, space lifts, space ladders, skyhooks or orbital towers. Sorta like those things in the clouds in Mario Brothers.

The most common proposal is a tether, usually in the form of a cable spanning from the surface to a point beyond geosynchronous orbit.

As the planet rotates, the inertia at the end of the tether counteracts gravity, and also keeps the cable taut. Vehicles can then climb the tether and escape the planet's gravity without the use of rocket propulsion. Such a structure could theoretically permit delivery of cargo and people to orbit with transportation costs a fraction of those of more traditional methods of launching a payload into orbit.

Recent proposals for a space elevator are notable in their plans to incorporate carbon nanotubes into the tether design, thus providing a link between space exploration and nanotechnology.

I usually talk about this shit LOUDLY in bars; everyone jumps at the chance to buy an astrophysicist a drink and once they hear me say "carbon nanotubes" the girls always come runnin'.

2 comments:

DaydreamSupercollider said...

For a minute I thought you were making shit up...but I came running anyway.

Brian Dunbar said...

I usually talk about this shit LOUDLY in bars; everyone jumps at the chance to buy an astrophysicist a drink and once they hear me say "carbon nanotubes" the girls always come runnin'.

Well, dang. All I get is a series of funny looks while people look for a sharp stick to poke me with if I get out of hand.

B. Dunbar
LiftPort