by Joseph Weisenthal

Filed Under:
space elevator

Calling Space Elevator Proponents: NASA Offering Prizes For Inventions

from the games-and-prizes dept

The concept of public contests to spur innovation has been gaining momentum, with successful results in both DARPA's Grand Challenge (unmanned vehicles) and the Ansari X-Prize (private space launch). Now NASA is getting into the game, launching a series of 13 challenges, with cash prizes to independent inventors in researchers, in areas such as self-assembled devices and, of course, space elevator technology. Given how much money has been spent on NASA, and the perception that much of it is wasteful, it's nice that they're exploring new ways of funding research. It could work very well in NASA's case as their enormous budget, compared to any other space-related enterprise, has a crowding out effect on the field -- sort of the way government issued bonds can draw money away from other investments. Some of the other benefits include distributing the costs among various institutions, avoiding groupthink, and getting the public excited about the area, all things that NASA could use right now. Besides, this is the age of user-generated content, why shouldn't it work for space travel?

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2006 @ 4:16pm

    Who can compete with Otis Elevator Company? If they can build the elevators for my 50-story office, they can build space elevators. How much higher do they have to go? Another 30-40 stories?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Another Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2006 @ 4:43pm


    Try another 200 stories at least!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    jeff mcd, Apr 7th, 2006 @ 4:45pm

    otis... blah!

    otis might be able to do it, but as some might know, it would take several hundred years for them to start it and it would be extremely overpriced!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    LukeD, Apr 7th, 2006 @ 5:03pm

    a few more stories...

    Actually if you calulated it; it would have go up another 28,000 stories to reach space.

    Although how tall is a story really? 12-15 feet?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    wiplost, Apr 7th, 2006 @ 5:14pm


    Nasa is not wasting money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    TheCuddlyOtter, Apr 7th, 2006 @ 6:11pm

    Jumping in Elevators

    You know how if you jump just at the moment that the elevator starts going down on a really quick elevator you fall and miss the ground, think zero g and tying that on a space elevator. Lots of fun methinks lots of head injuries too.

    quote "NASA is not wasting money."

    It isn't a waste of money because it's marketing and lots of fun as I have already mentioned, also the Government is paying for it so it is not defined as a waste of money but 'non critical expenditure.'

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Michael "TheZorch" Haney, Apr 7th, 2006 @ 9:40pm

    Space Elevator

    Thought the cost to build a space elevator would be high the overall cost savings in putting payloads into space using it would be significently lower than that of a shuttle or rocket launch.

    Payloads could be hoisted into space above the Earth's gravity, released and then to manufacture...boosters could be fired to push satelites into higher orbit. Spacecraft would no longer need heat shielding for re-entering the Earth's atmosphere because the burn is caused the incredible speeds normal craft must travel at. Shuttles launched from a launch platform rig lifted into space on a space elevator don't need as much fuel, don't need heat shielding except for rare emergencies and should be able to stay up for longer periods of time because it would be possible to carry extra fuel and supplies which normally wouldn't have been possible due to weight-to-lift issues with current rocket technology.

    Thus, it is within NASA's best interest that they get a Space Elevator working and as soon as possible.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Ed, Apr 8th, 2006 @ 9:03am

    Gas we have Lots..

    To get things into space we need to float them there.

    A gas could be used to do this if incase with the item your sending up to space then guided to its location of need.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    martine, Apr 8th, 2006 @ 11:51am

    how high?

    The generally accepted number for how tall it would have to be is 65,000 miles in order to escape earth's gravity well. So I doubt Otis has any advantage. And you can't use gas to float things if there's no atmosphere. I have to say that for tech forum you guys are a little out of touch. The space elevator concept has been around in sci fi for at least 40 years.
    The most common idea for how to build it is to run a thread from a geosynchronous (Non-orbiting fixed location) satellite to a location on the ground and then use robotic factories that would build a carbon fiber cable (nano-tech) working their way up the thread. You keep making it thicker with each trip. Read Red Mars by Kim Staney Robinson.
    This is not rocket science. NASA has a team that believes they could build one now if they had the cash.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Rob, Apr 9th, 2006 @ 7:07am

    Gravity and floating

    It's funny reading some of the comments regarding gravity and floating things up. Even thousands of miles up, you are still being pulled back to earth by gravity. What keeps things in orbit is centripital force of gravity balanced against forward velocity of the satellite as it travels around the earth trying to escape.

    In other words, if you just pop something into an elevator and take it up to a LEO (low earth orbit) altitude of a few hundred or thousand kilometers and push it out the door, it will essentially just fall back to earth at 10 m/s/s!

    I believe you might have a chance if you go up to 36,000 km (Geosynchronous orbit).

    The idea behind using an elevator is still a good one in the same way using a baloon to float the payload up to a high altitude and then finishing the job off with a rocket works. You are spreeding your "WORK" over "TIME" and you are also not wasting a lot of energy in lifting a massive rocket full of fuel. You still have to lift the elevator but you don't have to lift the energy source.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Adam Gilman, Apr 9th, 2006 @ 8:21am

    Almost done...

    A space elevator is already being made. I doubt if anyone could catch up to them.

    I think this would be an awsome addition to the space program. The only problem I forsee is terrorism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Ajax 4Hire, Apr 9th, 2006 @ 9:31pm

    Space Elevator

    Float up to orbit, boy I don't know where to begin to cut this one down. Float up to orbit, the earth's skin of air is about 12-35 miles thick, life not possible above 5 miles without support. Low Earth Orbit is at least 75 miles.

    GeoSynchronous Orbit is 26,000 miles.
    (that is an orbit that is stationary above one point over equator).

    Top-side Elevator anchor would be just pass GeoSynchronous Orbit; This is essentially a Suspension Bridge that you climb up the cable.

    BTW, there is no modern technology to create cable/ribbon that is strong enough to support its own weight, much less cargo.

    The closest thing using today's technology is Buckmeister-Fullerine (Buckey Balls) Carbon Nano-tubes.

    Look to Science Fiction;
    Probably most well known is:
    "The Fountains of Paradise" by Arthur C. Clarke.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Russ, Nov 25th, 2006 @ 6:06pm

    lets go fly a kite

    fly a kite into space and keep let out a years worth of line

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2007 @ 2:18pm

    Featherlite screw with a supercooling center positioned by varying strengths of electrical discharge, to magnetize the upper end {pulling object forward} incremental voltage somewhat proportionate to mass I assume.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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