Who would have ever thought that you would see an elevator to space, or even hear about the possibilities of making it a reality?
A team of researchers at Shizuoka University in Japan are working on a 'space elevator' that could help transport people and goods back and forth by 2050. The group is working with a local construction firm Obayashi, to make the vertical transportation link a reality and that would theoretically reach 96,000 kilometres (60,000 miles) above the earth.
A space elevator could be helpful for astronauts and scientists, providing a more economical route of communication in place of expensive and often single-use rockets. The biggest challenge is crafting a lift shaft with the strength to withstand the harsh conditions in space. Obayashi has suggested that carbon nanotube technology – a material 20 times stronger than steel – could be used, although even this material might prove too weak.
Researchers at Japan’s Shizuoka University plan to test an elevator in space on a smaller scale first. Initial tests will launch a rocket and a mini elevator from the Japanese island of Tanegashima. The test involves a mini elevator – measuring just six centimetres long, three centimetres wide, and three centimetres high – will travel along a 32-foot cable suspended in space between two mini-satellites. Cameras in the satellites will monitor the movement of the motorised elevator box.
If the space elevator were ever to become reality, it would likely be tethered somewhere along the equator, where earthquakes and tornadoes are unlikely.