Here’s Why Experts Say The Real Space Age Will Start When We No Longer Need Rockets


Edwards — who literally wrote the book on the space elevators for NASA’s Institute for Advanced Concepts — made the bold assertion, “When historians look back at this time 500 years from now, they will put a breaking point right where we build a space elevator: this is pre-space, and this was post.” So what exactly is a space elevator, and what would make it better than a rocket?

A space elevator is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: get onto an elevator car, press the “up” button, and then exit when you’ve reached the top floor somewhere around 26,098 miles above the Earth (via MIT Technology Review). Rather than using pulleys, a space elevator would consist of a ribbon-like cable extending from Earth’s surface to an anchoring asteroid or other large mass in geosynchronous orbit. The elevator car would climb the cable up and down without the need for all that heavy fuel. “With the space elevator, we reduce the cost of getting into space to dollars per pound,” Edwards told Bloomberg.

While the possibility of the space elevator is revolutionary and the concept is simple, the challenges are astronomical. It would require technological leaps in materials science or manufacturing — or, at the very least, a mindboggling capital investment that no nation, company, or individual has seriously committed to as of yet.



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