Skip to main content
  1. News
  2. Science & Space

Google mulled building a space elevator

See also

A Tuesday story in Fast Company reported that Google’s top secret research lab, Google X, actually set out to design a working space elevator. The sticking point for actually building such a railroad to space that there is no material durable enough that can be built in quantity to make the thing work. So, for the time being, the project is on hold.

According to How Stuff Works, a space elevator would consist of a ribbon stretching from an offshore platform near the equator to a counterweight/station 62.000 miles above the Earth’s surface. Mechanical lifters would travel along the ribbon carrying cargo and people to space. The lifters would be powered by lasers that would shine on solar collectors that would convert their energy to electricity. The trip would take days but would cost a fraction of what it now costs to travel to low Earth orbit. Total cost for building space elevator would be $10 billion in construction and other costs.

The ribbon would have to be 100 times stronger than steel for the space elevator to work. The only known material that fits that criteria is carbon nanotubes. Unfortunately no carbon nanotube has ever been created that is longer than a meter. So the dream of a space elevator must wait until materials science has advanced enough.

There are other problems surrounding a space elevator. Maintaining a 62,000 space railroad would be a horrendous challenge to say the least. The space elevator would be menaced by threats such as space debris and terrorist attacks.

Still many believe that a space elevator is just the thing needed to open up the high frontier of space. The cost of traveling to a way station in geostationary orbit. From there one could catch a ride on a spaceship and travel to the moon, Mars, or just about anywhere.

Advertisement

News

  • Baseball Hall of Fame
    The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown welcomes six new inductees
    Video
    Video
  • 2012 do-over
    If we were to re-do the 2012 election, a new poll suggests Romney would win
    Politics
  • Boko Haram
    Boko Haram kidnaps the wife of the vice prime minister of Cameroon
    World News
  • Ceasefire breaks
    Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu claims Hamas broke another brief ceasefire
    Gaza
  • Close call with CME
    Scientists tell how Earth survived a giant solar flare back in 2012
    Space
  • Comic-Con
    What's going on at Comic-Con? Get all the latest updates here
    Comic-Con