The space elevator “games” of yore seem to have petered out, but here’s a new Japanese experiment that may lead to something more permanent.
“The ISS experiment, dubbed Space Tethered Autonomous Robotic Satellite–Mini elevator, or STARS-Me, was devised by physicists from Japan’s Shizuoka University. It will simulate on a small scale the conditions that the components of such a system would encounter. Cameras will examine the movement of a pair of tiny “cubesats” along a 10-meter tether in a weightless environment.”
Environmentalists probably would kill any American attempt to build one, but some other country (like Japan) might get it done.
The dream, a staple of some far-future science fiction, especially Arthur C. Clark’s opus, isn’t Looney Tunes at all. And it’s still alive. Short of any government allowing fission rockets blasting off the surface, the elevator may be the only efficient way to loft sufficient cargo and crews to build solar system spacecraft in low orbit. Let alone star ships. The ISEC’s next conference is in Seattle in August.
LaserMotive’s laser-beaming powered robot climber ascends the 3,000-foot cable suspended from a helicopter at the Space Elevator Games. The real thing, big enough to carry passengers in their own cabins, might take a day or two to get into space. But with no gravity stresses to speak of.
UPDATE: The games are over and LaserMotive won $900K. The big prize, however, is still out there.
The helicopter that was to hoist the one kilometer cable "beanstalk" for the entrant "crawlers" to climb has proved unable to hold the thing taut. So the games that were to have started today at Edwards AFB in California have been delayed "at least" a month. Pity. But it was an ambitious plan. It ain’t rocket science. It might be harder.
It ain’t rocket science. In some ways, it’s harder. And never more so than this year. The August 5 games have come a long way since the tether was held up by a crane-on-wheels. This time it’s to be held up by a helicopter hovering four thousand three hundred feet (one kilometer) above the Mojave Desert at Edwards AFB where the space shuttles land. For that reason alone, we’re likely to see it on television and YouTube and elsewhere. So get your background here and here and here.
The Japanese are planning to build a space elevator. Nice work, if Shuichi Ono, chairman of the Japanese Space Elevator Association, and his engineers can do it. So far they haven’t even translated their web site into English. It ain’t rocket science but, first, they have to come up with the materials to build the beanstalk. Been a lot of talk about that, and some minor experimentation, but no action yet worthy of an actual setup. Inevitably, they’re starting with a conference.
Science fiction writers like Charles Stross in Saturn’s Children, have predicted the elevators won’t work well, except in isolated environments such as Mars to Phobos, or another of the red planet’s moons. Time will tell.
The latest on Jack’s beanstalk, otherwise known as the Space Elevator: still a dream, but still…