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A new-old idea: an elevator to space

Connect the Earth to a satellite in geostationary orbit
by Alex Doron

One of the amazing technological ideas I've been "playing around with" lately
The Office of Advanced Projects of NASA (US space agency),
Located at the base of Marshall space, is the construction of an elevator that will fly from the face of a ball
The earth up to the height of a satellite's orbit. If he embroiders skin and tendons, we can
In the future to reach the space station, which will be placed at heights much greater than a station
The international space that is now established - but after a meager payment of about 200
Dollar (elevator fare) - instead of 20 million dollars, which was probably paid
to the operators of the "Mir" space station to accommodate a distinguished guest for several days.

The elevator to space is not a new idea. Back in 1895, the Russian came up with
Chiolkovsky building a tower very high off the ground - whose top will carry a space station
In a geosynchronous orbit, at an altitude of 35,786 km.

Arthur C. Clarke, the science fiction writer, devised a similar device in his book
"Fountains of Paradise". But now the literary idea is being discussed quite seriously
at NASA The Americans are more practical - because we see a solution on the horizon
To the cardinal problem that has so far posed obstacles to the realization of this vision:
The material from which the cable of the orbital elevator will be built.

The first calculations in this regard were made in 1966. They then showed that there is no
There is still an extremely strong material (among the materials that were known
at the time) and be able to withstand the efforts and tear. In recent years
Forms of arrangement of carbon atoms were found in complex particles, some of them
Strong enough to build from them the strongest cable in the world.

The special materials are tiny tubes, made of carbon atoms
Wrapped around a single long axis.

In the modern version of the space elevator, construction will begin from a space station that will be placed
in geosynchronous orbit. The station "stands" above a certain point on
The equator - and two cables made of tubes begin to emerge from it
carbon. One cable descends towards the earth's surface and the other is released towards the earth
the space. The more cable is loosened, the larger the diameter of the new cable will be
which is released (to support the addition of the cable).

Close to the surface of the earth, at an altitude of 50 km, the descending cable will be connected to its top
of a high tower, higher than all the mountains on the face of the earth. This will be a base
The tower that will bring passengers to the stars. The cables will not be used for transportation
payloads, but will only support the carriages that bring cargo and people into space, while
Similar lies will descend, from the other side of the cable.

From the space station it will be possible to let the charges slide freely: the power
the centripetal of the earth's rotation and of the elevator connected to it,
will automatically throw the charges into the air. There is no point in rushing and trying to search
Tickets for such space flights. The project is far from being ready for implementation.
It will take at least a good few decades for the technological developments to catch up
the imagination of the planners.

Who will ride the elevator to space?

Scientists around the world estimate that the field of nanotechnology will enable a leap forward
impressive in the development of the human race; The question is whether humanity will know how to use it
in the new technology, and how

by Debbie Kaufman

In June '92, Dr. Eric Drexler was invited from his office in San Francisco to Givat
Capitol in Washington, to testify before a Senate subcommittee
American for Science, Technology and Space Affairs.

Drexler introduced the field of molecular nanotechnology in the discussion, and noted
Because this field is going to be one of the main instruments for scientific growth
and economically in the coming years.

This was the first time that the American government was exposed to hidden capabilities
Behind the nanotechnology (nano - one billionth of a meter), which deals
in molecules and atoms. The administration was not convinced to invest in the same new field

However, even then buds of the ability to create materials in order appeared
nanometer size. Today it is known that it is indeed possible to produce materials, components
and drugs in nanometric sizes. The American government has also already been convinced,
And in 2002 the field of nanotechnology received the status of a national project with
A budget of 519 million dollars.

One of the main reasons why the field gained momentum is economic. already
When Drexler met with the heads of government in 92, he estimated that
Nanotechnology can reduce the construction of houses, sailboats,
spaceships and weapons; This, because the nanometric materials will be mounted on
by humans, who can manipulate any existing material.

This option may solve problems of lack of resources and natural treasures
and save on production costs. Scientists predict that this is a breakthrough
The greatest technology in the history of the human race.

Drexler stated at the meeting that "it is very difficult to describe a future scenario in which there is no
We have these technologies in our hands (the nano-technologies - DC)". Indeed it seems
Because the US is making considerable efforts to invest in the field, and research
Nanotechnologies are advancing relatively quickly.

"This is no longer science fiction"

However, in light of the promise inherent in nanotechnology, the question arises what
There will be uses for it; That is, if and how humanity will know how to use
in the new technology. One of the examples of this is the space elevator that is being developed
These days at the American space agency NASA.

The project began to gain momentum in the last two years, due to studies that showed that
It is possible to produce an electromagnetic strip made of carbon nanomolecules,
needed to create the elevator.

In '99, a senior NASA official, David Smitherman, published an article entitled "Elevator
Space: advanced space infrastructures for the new millennium", in which he stated that "not anymore
This is science fiction," and that the agency has "results that show that this is the case
possible". According to him, scientists, engineers and government officials have already started working on
Adequate infrastructure for the elevator, which should be available in less than 50

The idea, ultimately, is to develop transportation between Earth and space,
that will allow trade, services and, in fact, a whole life on other planets;
Because only if such a life develops, there will be justification for the investments involved
In building an elevator to space.

The elevator is actually a long cable that stretches from the earth to a height of 35,786
km. Electromagnetic machines or robots, which will wander around the cable,
will be able to move people, machines and rockets from Earth to space, and vice versa.
The main problem the program suffers from is the question of justifying the investment.
This is a huge investment of billions of dollars, NASA claims, and therefore
Trying to advance the project carefully.

The big expenses include a launching station for the elevator, which needs to be raised
to a height of at least 50 km. This tower must be made of materials
Special, extremely light, that can withstand the force of gravity. the end of the tower
The special cable will come out, which will lead the elevator into space. According to Smitherman,
The project is not possible today, but in the future
50 years will be applicable.

A 106-year-old idea

In the article published by Smitherman, the scientist mentions the writer Arthur C. Clarke,
included in the novel "Fountains of Paradise" that he published
In '78 a story about engineers who developed space elevators in legendary regions.
In his book, Clark describes new materials, made of carbon fibers, which made it possible
Building the space elevators. Smitherman points out that these materials are found today
in research laboratories.

But it turns out that Clark was not the first. As early as 1895, a Russian scientist named
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky An imaginary "heavenly castle" that will be
geosynchronous and will move in a fixed orbit in space and launch to Earth. You
He got the inspiration for the story after watching the Eiffel Tower, and imagining the tower
from its top edge down.

In 1960, a Russian engineer from Leningrad, Yuri Artsonov, pointed out that there was a possibility
to build space elevators, but his words were not appreciated. Only in '75 did an idea win
Space elevators to the attention of the Western science community, thanks to an article he wrote
Jerome Pearson from the US Air Force Laboratory on the matter.

But only in '99 when Jerome Pearson proposed the space elevator as a tool for downsizing
The costs of launching into space, NASA decided to promote the matter.
According to Pearson, launching one kilogram into space costs about 22 thousand today
dollar. However,
The use of the space elevator will reduce the price to less than 1.5 dollars per kg.

To reach these costs, it is necessary to invest a lot of resources in development
Technologies and materials that will significantly reduce the cost of space flight. Smitherman
Name five technological developments that are required to make flying cheaper
desecrate; These, in his opinion, are critical to the success of the project.

According to a report published by NASA in '98, the pressure on the elevator will increase
As you ascend towards the exit from the atmosphere. Therefore, the elevator cable should
to be built of particularly strong materials, and subject to their change in thickness;
That is, thick at the beginning and very thin at the end.

Materials such as steel and diamond, which are considered particularly strong today, are not
Enable the construction of a cable that will withstand the required loads and pressures. the diamond,
For example, consists of carbon atoms forming covalent bonds
XNUMXD is extremely strong, but its molecules tend to spread out
in flat plains.

Molecules 100 times stronger than steel

This inhalation is problematic, if you want to bend the material into the shape of a ring, a tube
or a curved structure. On the other hand, carbon atoms arranged in a different way -
Nanotubes (Carbon CNT), for example - enable the construction of a strong elevator cable
especially. These molecules are considered to be 100 times stronger than steel, and weigh six times as much
from her.

The second technology is supposed to be one that achieves control and deployment control
The cable from Earth to space. A third technology is required to produce a structure
From light and relatively cheap materials, which will justify the construction of particularly tall buildings
on Earth, which will reach a height of 50 km.

A fourth technology is the development of an electromagnetic force that will transmit quickly
High and very heavy, such as equipment for building infrastructure in space. this technology
leading to the fifth field, which is the development of transportation, services and facilities
to support space structures; Without these, the whole plan will go down the drain.

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