A 7 Day Elevator Ride
In my very first blog post, I listed a few books of hard core scifi that I really dig. I completely failed to mention what I consider one of the most awesome trilogies of all time, Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars. This was where my love of hard core scifi started! (So sorry Kim, please accept my humble apologies!).
One of the key features of the novel is the construction of a space elevator on the Red Planet. The concept is to create a structure that climbs up a tether into space. One end of the climbing tether is anchored at the equator. At the opposite end is a very large man-made construction or a captured asteroid that is in a geosynchronous orbit.
Minor spoiler: One of the greatest “oh damn, no he didn’t” scenes in novel history occurs when a character in Red Mars severs the cable to a space elevator intentionally. Ouch!
IO9 had a blurb today about a university team that may have developed a material that can handle the stress and load of a space elevator cable. It would be magnificent if the human race can pull off an engineering achievement this great. It would be a boon for space exploration as the cost of lifting objects out of the gravity well would be greatly reduced (some say as low as $220 per kilogram as opposed to $11,000 per kilogram via conventional rockets). One of the biggest barriers to a space program is actually getting materials off planet.
Also imagine the elevator as a basis for a tourist industry!? Oh man, that would be a 7-day vacation I would definitely pay for.
Here is a clip I found on YouTube featuring one of my favorite astrophysicists, Neil deGrasse Tyson: