Saturday, October 22, 2005

Space Elevator: Explained by and for the geeky layman

Bull Dork explains the idea behind the space elevator, how it would work, and the benefits of having a working system, in a pithy 'by a layman for a layman' way.
The conquest of the universe is leaving the feasibility study phase and entering prototype testing. You can see how this excites nerds. Already, startups are gestating and testing their hauler vehicle designs. People are signing contracts to build nanofiber manufacturing plants. This is happening now. This is the next great bubble. Space is the new black, people.

Here's the problem. Which (if any) of these pie-in-the-sky startups will have the money and technical savvy to complete the most audacious engineering project in human history? Will they also have the political clout and smarts to outwit a US government who will try to seize their patents in the name of national security, to outwit the corrupt regimes along the equator that will exploit their position on the prime elevator-building spots? Will they also be able to maintain security, or will terrorists manage to sever the umbilical cord between Earth and the fledgling lifeboat-less space colonies, while also sending a 60,000 mile long structure plummeting to Earth and basically destroying everything within ten miles of the equator?

And can they turn a profit doing it?

The answer to all of these questions is: bloody unlikely. But the rewards of a functioning elevator are so dizzying- as far beyond the dreams of Bill Gates as $100 billion and control of the Internet would be beyond the dreams of the doges of Venice- that inaction is impossible. The logic of the market demands that the attempt be made. The logic of the media demands that there be hysterical coverage. The logic of your 401(k) plan demands that this will be a very real part of your life soon.

I agree that any one particular person or company is unlikely to make a profit at this game; but someone is going to, no doubt.
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