This week’s question concerns space elevators. Last week, during NASA’s Space Elevator Games in the Mojave Desert, a robot powered by a ground-based laser beam scampered up a 2,953 foot cable suspended from a helicopter hovering almost a mile overhead. The trip took just over four minutes. The achievement, some say, brings us one step closer to making the concept of space elevators a reality. For those not familiar with the concept, a space elevator would consist of an electrically powered vehicle that can travel up and down a cable that is anchored to Earth and suspended from a mass placed in geosynchronous orbit thousands of miles above the Earth. Power for the elevator would be provided by ground-based lasers aimed at photovoltaic cells mounted on the underside of the vehicle. Although it may sound fanciful, proponents of the theory believe that, with certain technological advances, it’s completely feasible.
What do you think? Are space elevators a viable concept?