Let’s talk about space elevators. I have been fascinated by the concept of space elevators from the moment I first heard it. Imagen you could look into the night sky and you see a huge construction from earth into space. A scenery which reminds me a lot of Halo. But why should we build a space elevator in the first place?
Besides from being really cool, a space elevator could be extremely useful. Not only could it provide a faster way into space, it would also be a lot cheaper. At the moment it costs approximately 20000 US-Dollar per kilogram to send something into space. A space elevator could reduce the cost of traveling into space by a hundredfold to 200 US-Dollar per kilogram.
So how can we build a space elevator? In short, a space elevator consists of 4 main components. The tether, which is essentially a huge cable from earth to space. An anchor on earth and a counterweight in space. The last component is the climber, it is like a conventional elevator carriage which moves up and down the tether. So first, we would need to build an anchor on earth along with a port for the passengers.
Furthermore we would have to build a counterweight in space, approximately 36000 kilometers above the earth’s surface. Building those two components shouldn’t be much of an issue. The biggest challenge is the tether. It needs to be light, cheap and nearly unbreakable. It would need to withstand extreme weather, radiation and micrometeoroids. Sadly we cannot produce this kind material yet and even if we could, we would need an immense amount of it to build a 36000 kilometer long tether.
Additionally, we need to power the climber. This could be done with a nuclear reactor, which isn’t exactly risk free. Speaking of risk, should the tether break, the whole elevator would collapse. If it breaks near the anchor, the whole elevator would just ascend into space. Should it break near the counterweight, the tether will fall, wrapping around earth, where it would be a huge obstacle for future space missions.
In conclusion, building a space elevator is a nearly impossible task. It would be the most expensive and complicated construction ever built by humans. However, if we manage to successfully build one, it would be a gigantic milestone for space travel.
If you want to know more about space elevators, I highly recommend you watch the video below.
Watch the video on YouTube
Watch more at Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell
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