One can go to space by an elevator in just seven days from Earth. Yes, it is no more a dream but is taking the shape of reality. A Japanese company Obayashi Corp. is all gearing up to build an elevator to space by 2050 reported Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper. So people could be glided up to space by 2050 using space elevator.
Obayashi Corp. is a Tokyo-based company. According to Obayashi’s vision, a cable shall run down from spaceport to the surface of Earth. Up to an altitude of 60,000 miles, which is approximately one quarter distance between our planet and the moon. The team at Obayashi claim that the counterweight at its end would help “anchor” the cable in space. Counterweight mechanism is crucial so as to avoid the strong gravitational pulls of the Earth.
Yomiuri Shimbun reported that a car with 30 passengers shall travel along the cable, possibly using magnetic linear motors as a means of propulsion. The device would carry passengers skyward at about 124 mph (200 kph), delivering them to a station 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above Earth in a little more than a week.
Space elevators have been a product of imagination especially for futurists and science fiction writers and little has been done to turn it into reality. The idea of space elevators has mainly emerged as an alternative to the expensive rocket launchers.
The major hurdle in realising space elevators is to discover a material that is strong and light enough to build an incredibly long cable.Obayashi’s optimism on building space elevators in near future comes from the material identified as carbon nanotubes. These were first developed in the 1990s.
Producing such efficient nanotubes at cheaper rates is yet another hurdle. An Obayashi official said, “At this moment, we cannot estimate the cost for the project. However, we’ll try to make steady progress so that it won’t end just up as simply a dream.”
There are others too in the race of making space elevators a reality. NASA researchers released a lengthy report more than a decade ago citing the potential of carbon nanotubes to make space elevators possible. And the agency has sponsored the Space Elevator Games, a contest to develop precursors to this longed-for transportation system.