If you’re one of those people who gets squeamish even thinking about long elevator rides or being stuck in one, stop reading right here. If not, by all means, read on.
First, this writer would like to start by saying that every country has its problems, issues whose resolutions take priority. And most countries have wealthy individuals and companies who could, if they chose, do something to help out.
Yes, America certainly exemplifies that statement…but this article is about Japan. Because someone over there has way too much time and money on his hands.
Rather than lend a hand to, say, the recently tsunami-decimated region of the country where health hazards loom large after severe damage to the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant, someone at the contracting company Obayashi Corp. thought, “Y’know what we really need to do with our resources? We need a space elevator!”
As reported by Digital Trends and other news outlets, the proposed space project would extend 60,000 miles (96,000 km) from the ground – roughly one-quarter of the distance to our moon. The terminal station would be built at the 22,400 mile (36,000 km) mark. The station plans include laboratories and living accommodations.
The six-car elevator, powered by magnetic linear motors and partly by electricity generated by solar cells, is planned to move at 125 mph (200 kph) and carry up to 30 people in a trip, which would last approximately 7.5 days. You’d have to really like elevator muzak to survive that ride. Oh, and make sure you shower right beforehand and bring your travel deodorant – and pray that everyone else in the elevator does, too.
The discovery of carbon nanotubes, over 20 times stronger than normal steel cables, has made the idea physically feasible, given that Obayashi can enlist the aid of certain companies around the globe. The Daily Yomiuri reports that the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration expressed interest in the project.
Obayashi would like to begin construction in 2025 by launching a rocket that contains two reeled cables and materials to construct a space ship at an altitude of 300 km. The space ship would then unreel the cables towards Earth while continuing onward to the far end. Back on the planet, the cables’ ends would be fixed to the ground (where a spaceport would be built), while the far ends would be fitted with counterweights.
How would you like to be the elevator repairman on the other end of the call button if and when Obayashi’s ambitious elevator breaks down en route? Even worse: how would you like to be one of the passengers? Is one of the six elevator cars a pantry with non-perishable food items? These are some initial questions this writer has regarding the space elevator plans.
The biggest question, though, is…why?