Japanese are building the World’s First Space Elevator!

 In General

Ever since the dawn of space age, we are looking for new breakthroughs. One of the latest obsessions in this regard is a space elevator. A Japanese firm, Obayashi Corporation, stated that it plans to build an operational space elevator by 2050.

What is a Space Elevator?

A space elevator is simply a means of transportation from earth to space. Presently, this is done by a rocket-propelled systems. But a space elevator will enable this by establishing a physical connection between a space station and a port on earth! Both payload or cargo and humans will be transported to and from space just as in a traditional elevator. This method is believed to be relatively much safer and reduce costs by thousands of dollars!

Development of the Concept

The idea of a continuous  physical connection between earth and space is not new. In fact, it was thought of many, many years before the present day. However, the biggest concern or obstacle in planning a space elevator was a strong material. There was no known material which could be used for a cable connecting a large distance, such as earth and space.

But, a strong material called carbon nanotube was discovered in 1991 by Dr. Ijiima. It was both significantly lighter and stronger than any other material known or in use! This has boosted the planning and preparation for creating a blueprint for the space elevator.

To understand this, let us first understand the concept of a geostationary orbit or GEO. At an altitude of 36,000 km above the earth’s equator is the GEO. It simply refers to an indicative circular orbit used by a satellite to maintain required speed to revolve around the earth. If the satellite lies between the earth and GEO it would eventually fall due to earth’s gravity and if it goes beyond this point it may lose its uniform revolving speed around earth!

As the satellite moves in a GEO, it appears stationery from any point on the equator. Hence, the name ‘geo-stationary’ orbit.

Proposed Space Elevator Functioning

Now, for the whole idea for a space elevator is to extend a cable from such an orbit both ways; one towards the earth and other towards the space and establish a physical connection!

Now the proposed plan is to attach capsules to this cable. This will carry the required men and material to and from space.

The idea of the Obayashi Corporation is to build a 96,000 km long cable from a base or port on earth to space. To begin with, a satellite will drop cable from the GEO towards the earth port. At the same time, it will further ascend into space carrying the other end of the cable to a height of 96,000 km!

Once this connection is established, climbers will be sent with reinforcing cable on this 96,000 km cable. Finally after sufficient tests capsules carrying men and material will be transported through this complex and reinforced cable length.

Although, this venture may sound dreamy but if everything goes according to the plan, we are in for exciting times. Space elevator can redefine our idea of space travel and indeed the space itself!

Do let us know what you think about this idea!

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