Thursday, October 30, 2014

Where Is Our Space Elevator? 

If Space-X built a space bridge instead of making re-usable rockets they would spend less money and advance man’s next stage of exploration to Mars and other planets.

Early space exploration began with a Soviet satellite, and later the Apollo missions. The most famous Apollo Mission was number 11, when we landed on the moon.  In the next twenty years the focus shifted to renewable ships and permanent space stations, but every time we go into space we fight gravity which is still the most expensive and difficult process of space flight. Consider the space shuttles of the eighties, which used large solid rockets or (SRBs) which used propellants and weighed 200,000 lbs each. Only the casings were recovered and reusable. The cost of these boosters is high and each mission cost 4.5 million. The shuttles themselves cost 1.7 billion.

The first person to make this idea more aware the public was Arthur C. Clark who knew of this concept and put it under our noses. The space elevator, that he called the orbital tower would stay fixed in the sky and orbit around earth but have a long dangling cord on which equipment or people could be moved into space. According to the Obayashi Corp. in Japan they will build one soon reducing the cost from $22,000 every .62 mile (1km) to the same distance for just $200. Obayashi claims they will build this in the next 35 years or so.

The possible pay-off by this geostationary orbiter or space bridge would be useful for satellites but it’s also a cheaper and more effective way to launch missions. A mission to Mars might begin with pushing off near the top of the elevator which would look like and act the ISS station or similar with a long tether which dangles to the earth. The tether can be made with a new substance called Graphene invented by two British scientists. These inventors won the Nobel Peace Prize for physics in 2010. This is the strongest material on Earth, made of carbon although only one atom thick. Graphene could be used to build the cable part of spacebridge being 200 times stronger than steel and a tensile strength of 130 GPa or (19,000,000 psi).

But back to the future, lets consider the costs and effort involved with the Curiosity Rover which landed on Mars August 6, 2012. Curiosity was the fourth rover mission to Mars and the car sized robot launched from Cape Canaveral on November 26, 2011. The cost of this mission was $2.5 billion, including $1.8 billion for spacecraft development launch and operations. Not to mention the cost of launching a satellite. Just one launch for a satellite costs $50 million to $400 million, although one mission can carry more than one satellite into orbit. The main portion or this amount has to do with the rockets and fuel.

Space is not a cheap business which is a main obstacle for space flight and further discoveries into space. Just imagine what would happen simple elevator system could safely move people or equipment? Not only that but people could pay to stay inside the orbiter much like a hotel. Even Mars could get easy.

A space bridge should be considered more seriously by U.S. companies like Space-X and Virgin Galactic, instead of making more reusable rockets like the Dragon. $6.8 billion has been contracted to bring shuttle cargo and astronauts to the ISS using rockets, and $70 million per seat on the Soyuz spacecraft. What if we spent this amount on a space elevator reducing the cost to $3,000 or $5,000 per trip? It’s obvious we should build a space bridge which could make things cheaper and easier. A space bridge could be one of the most important advancements of space exploration. Lets do this before Japan does. After all this idea was first started in 1895 by Konstantin Tsiolkovky.