Japanese Construction Company Planning 2050 Elevator to Space

Obayashi Space ElevatorObayashi, a construction company out of Japan, has come up with one heck of an idea that probably looks better on paper than it does in reality. According to reports, Obayashi wants to build an elevator…to space! That’s right, an elevator that goes all the way into space capable of transporting passengers to a space station about a tenth of the distance to the moon.

The design of the elevator is a structure using super-strong carbon nanotubes in its cables and could, according to the company, be ready as early as 2050. The cables themselves would stretch a mere 60,000 miles, which is roughly a quarter of the distance to the moon, and would be attached to Earth at a spaceport anchored to the ocean floor. The other end of the cables would dangle a counterweight in space.

The elevator would travel at approximately 125 miles per hour and possibly be powered by magnetic linear motors. However, it would take nearly an entire seven day week to get to the station. The space station the elevator would travel to would contain living quarters and lab facilities while solar panels connected to to the station would generate electricity that would be transmitted to the ground.

Obayashi isn’t the only company contemplating space elevators, however. NASA has also entertained the idea and awarded $900,000 in 2009 to LaserMotive for developing a laser-powered robotic climber. If the extreme technological obstacles weren’t enough to dissuade people from trying this, the infrastructure could cost billions of dollars to construct, despite what it would save on rocket launches into space.

According to a quote from Obayashi in the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, “At this moment, we cannot estimate the cost for the project. However, we’ll try to make steady progress so that it won’t just end up as simply a dream.” The elevator would carry people 30 at a time into space, though I wonder how 30 people would get along together for a week straight?

Source: CNET – Japan plans snail-paced space elevator for 2050 ; Picture Courtesy of Obayashi

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