Carefully Timed Jerks Could Power Space ElevatorDisorganized jerks and procrastinating jerks need not apply. The BBC article continues:
The prospects for the space elevator have been shaken up with a simple prototype using a broomstick. The project could see a 100,000 km long tether anchored to the Earth as a "lift into space" for cheaper space missions.
While the approach could solve one of the idea's great technical hurdles, many issues remain, according to conference attendees.
First mooted by Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in 1895, the space elevator idea has captured imaginations as what would be the greatest space mission ever conceived. The idea rests on making use of the outward centrifugal force supplied by the Earth's rotation. Imagine fixing a short length of string to a football and spinning it - the string flies outward and remains taut.
If the centrifugal force provided by the Earth is balanced with its gravitational force - making use of a space elevator cable or tether whose center of mass is at geostationary orbit - the tether would be held taut permanently, providing a means to propel people and cargo into space.
But how do you provide enough power to get an elevator up a 100,000 km tether (or 62,137 miles, for the non-metrically inclined)? Suggestions include microwave or laser power beamed up from the Earth's surface, or orbiting solar power collectors.
Instead, European Space Agency ground station engineer Raymond Riise proposed simple mechanics. A carefully timed jerk of the cable at its base would do the trick, he says. (Check out the article for a quick movie demonstration using the broomstick model.) What happens, however, if the tether snaps or wears out, and passengers - without hope of rescue by Los Angeles SWAT team explosives experts Keanu Reeves and Jeff Daniels - plummet to their death?
Also: how tall is too tall, you ask? Well, so did U.K.'s The Independent in an article that runs the gamut from references Prince Charles and phallic symbols to the obligatory "is the sky the limit?" rhetoric.
I imagine air guitars will make a comeback - the atmospheric elevators will need music, after all. And someone get Air Supply and Jefferson Airplane on the phone. And for the evening rotation, a little Phil Collins and "In the Air Tonight."