Space Elevators

Anoushrayan Deysarkar

Illustration: Victor Habbick/Getty Images

Megastructures are truly massive structures, which are used for projects beyond anything we can do today. One of these is the space elevator.

A space elevator is a theoretical structure stretching from Earth to space, which allows the transport of materials and spacecraft from Earth to space and vice-versa, without the use of a rocket.

The construction of a space elevator would be extremely expensive and difficult, but the payoff would be immense. It would require an extremely strong thread, one that only became possible after the invention of artificial super-fibers like C-60. However, no existing material has the required strength to support such a structure. Several plans have been put forward for the construction of a space elevator, though none have been realised yet.

Apart from the thread, another problem is location and actual construction. A space elevator would have to be built at the equator, to avoid major problems. Several locations have been suggested, in regions free from storms and heavy winds. The western equatorial Pacific is a possible location, as it has the best possible natural location, free of environmental hazards.

Many ideas, such as building the elevator on top of a mountain or tall tower, have been proposed, to reduce the stress on the cable. The construction would probably be done by a satellite, feeding cable down to the Earth’s surface, and a counterweight to create centrifugal force, upwards. The space elevator is a fascinating megastructure and has the potential to cut costs down by up to 100 times. It would be very useful and making one would be very rewarding for whichever country manages it.

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