The way every time with more experience, it became easier for a caveman to light a fire with stones, he must have dreamt that someday it won’t be this difficult. Gradually a lot of things have changed with time, sun isn’t the only source of light today, walking isn’t the only source of transportation. Yes, we have evolved with time but so has our imagination. Things laughed upon as impossible once are today not even considered as the greatest achievements. Among the infinite dreams of mankind, there are some which are not even close to being fulfilled. One of them being of connecting the surface of Earth to the vast and infinite space; the space elevator.
A space elevator is basically a planet-to-space transportation system with a main cable called as tether. Considering all the known elements known to us yet, none holds the capacity to hold the strength of a wire extending to space and withstand the force which will be applied on it with the rotation of earth. The idea of space station is not one of yesterday’s thoughts but the oldest record of published data is of 1895 being inspired from the Eiffel Tower and since then many scientists have thought about studying the properties of various elements like diamond itself considering its hard nature. Till now, the only major development was when carbon nanotubes were developed with their massive strength giving the dream of space elevators a pushing force. Further in 2000, to prevent it from meteoroids and it would enable the climbers to use simple rollers to climb it up.
Now going into a bit concrete details regarding the construction of the space elevator, not just the material but the quantity of material required would be massive. Though we start buidling the structure from earth but after attaining a certain height, there will be a need to send space shuttles in itself just to send material for its construction. On an estimate more than 10000 space shuttles would be required just to send raw material for construction and the huge expenditure for fueling it and other expenses adding to it the risk of failure of space shuttles and if these shuttles crash then it might damage the in progress elevator. We also cannot completely outlook the risk that even a minor crash would be a huge loss of the spaceship and the falling debris from such a height are a catastrophe in itself. And not just on land, if such a danger occurs in the final stages, there might be debris scattered all across space too. Some professionals have questioned this saying that difficulty in supplying material shall only be caused in the initial stage of construction as once a strong base is built then the elevator itself can be used to transfer this material though there still remains analysis for this to be done. Another idea says that it might be much more feasible to have a space elevator constructed on other planets depending on their topography and other structural formation like mars with a gravitational force just 38% of that of earth making the need of a much shorter elevator to reach space from the planet but it seems a much more far fetched idea as we don’t have enough knowledge about other planets and the transportation expenses for materials would multiply many times.
Toll now we have discussed whether this project is practically possible or not but a question even more important than that is what will this be used for? Is it going to be for the elite class as a tourist attraction or will it be to explore outer space. The use is yet to be exactly stated but one thing is for sure, this would surely be the greatest invention of mankind yet, both in literal sense keeping in mind its size and in terms of technological innovation. For years we have bee. Hearing that there might be a change of a global crisis due to damage done on our planet, well this might be our ticket to live to other land in case the need occurs and we find a planet on which we can live.
Talking about the present initiative towards construction, an International Space Elevator Consortium was established which is a US non profit corporation formed to promote the development, construction and operation of a space elevator and holds an annual space elevator conference. Shuichi Ono, chairman of the Japan Space Elevator Association has given a plan of construction of the elevator which estimates the budget to be a trillion yen (8 billion dollars).
In 2012, Obayashi corporation announced that in the next 38 years, it could build a space elevator using carbon nanotubes technology giving a rough estimates of the structure saying that it would take 7.5 days to reach space with the elevator working at 200 kilometres per hour and an average of 30 passengers per climb.
I believe that this isn’t the first time humans have wished to achieve something that looks impossible and is definitely not the last time too. The day we finally accept in our abilities and use proper manpower to achieve our target, within 50 years from that day, we might actually have a fully functional space elevator like those seen in movies or perhaps an even better one.