Riding the 62,000 mile elevator

NASA's Space Elevator Games is offering a prizeto the first team that can make a machine climb upStar_kid_2

a 164-foot tether, powered by a mirror and a beam of light from a 10,000-watt bulb. So far, no winners. But a much, much bigger prize is also up for grabs, according to "The 62,000 Mile Elevator Ride." Here's the idea:

Earth is constantly spinning. So if you attach a counterweight to it with a cable, and put it far enough away--62,000 miles--the cable will be held taut by the force of the planet's rotation, just as if you spun around while holding a ball on a string. And if you've got a taut cable, you've got the makings of an elevator.

Constructing such an elevator, which would be about the size of a Boeing 747, would reduce launch expenses by about 98 percent since 90 percent of the launch weight for the space shuttle, for example, is fuel. The author say the idea "is where the PC was in the 1960's." The theory and materials, like carbon nanotubes, are coming together.

June's Space Elevator Games have attracted a field of 45 and will offer a $400,000 prize.


Technorati tags: NASA, astronomy, nanotubes

Image: "star kid" by fotomele
Location: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fotomele/95146582/
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