Ahh, to build a space elevator. Wouldn't that be grand? We could move material into space at a fraction of the cost of conventional rockets. Space tourism would boom. We'd launch interplanetary missions. Oh happy day.
According to [a NASA] study, a flexible and durable cable with a space station counterweight could serve as a viable space elevator. A mechanical “climber” — using magnetic levitation or rollers along the tether — would then carry many tons of equipment or people into orbit. Although such a project would cost in the tens of billions, it would eventually pay for itself by providing much cheaper space travel to a greatly expanded market.
The question is: can we do this?
Kurzgesagt (a.k.a. "in a nutshell") explores the state of affairs in this entertaining video
Here are some of the problems with this plan. Problems which engineers and scientists may never be able to overcome:
- Maybe we'll never make a material strong enough to support the space elevator.
- Maybe terrorists will attack any elevator that we build.
- Maybe we'll never get the costs of construction/maintenance down.
- Maybe one or more space elevator disasters will fling debris into orbit or crash down on a populated area, turning the population against the process.
- Maybe rocket engineers will build on the successes of companies like Space X, and there will therefore never be enough political or economic pressure to incentivize construction of an elevator.
What do you think? Will we or our descendants overcome these obstacles and others unforeseen?
Question resolves positive if a working space elevator is constructed on Earth by 2100 and maintained in operation for at least a year.