Globalization at work: A Russian idea is being tested by the Japanese.
Tsiolkovsky originally came up with the idea of a space elevator after seeing the newly constructed Eiffel Tower. The space pioneer realized that a similar tower could be built to extend all the way to the stars. But it would take more than half a century until another Russian, engineer Yuri Artsutanov, began to look into the real-world challenges of building a permalink between the Earth and space in the 1960s.
Theoretically, a “space elevator” would be composed of a cable tethered to the Earth, likely somewhere near the equator where hurricanes and tornadoes are scarce. David Smitherman of NASA/Marshall’s Advanced Projects Office, explained that such a system “requires the center of mass be in geostationary orbit,” roughly 22,236 miles above Earth’s equator. The cable itself would need to be tethered to a stationary mass beyond geostationary orbit that would keep it taut. But the result would allow for electromagnetic vehicles to ride up and down the cable taking workers, equipment and tourists into orbit for a fraction of the cost of a rocket ride.<<
For over a century scientists and sci-fi writers alike have dreamed of creating a space elevator to ferry astronauts and payloads between the Earth and low orbit. Building this “celestial castle,” as Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky first envisioned back in 1895, has so far proven beyond the grasp of existing technologies. But that hasn’t stopped people from trying. Now, as Agence France-Presse reports, researchers at Japan’s Shizuoka University will test elevator motion in space next week in a first-of-its-kind experiment in hopes of advancing the concept.
Source: Smithsonian Magazine