Is the thrill of an African safari or scuba diving off the Great Barrier Reef failing to provide the novelty you crave from a dream vacation? As soon as 2050, according to Japanese construction company Obayashi Corp., a trendy vacation spot could be a spaceport offering a stellar view of Earth’s surface 60,000 miles below.
Representatives of the Tokyo-based company spoke to Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper last Wednesday, describing their hopes of building an operational space elevator using carbon nanotubes. The statement came after the discovery that the material – strong and light enough to potentially construct the perilously long cable – could make the dream a reality.
Obviously logistics will need some tweaking, but the original proposal describes a 30-passenger car traveling at 124 mph, meaning the one-way trip would take little less than a week. Magnetic linear motors would propel the car along the cable and the elevator would be effectively anchored by a counterweight.
Although NASA researchers released a report on the potential of carbon nanotubes to construct space elevators in the late ‘90s soon after the material was first developed, Obayashi is renewing interest as they pursue plans to find a way to manufacture the tubes more cheaply and efficiently.
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The long-held dream of leisurely space travel has been overshadowed by staggering price tags, but space elevators would offer a more affordable, as well as safer, alternative to rocket launches.
"At this moment, we cannot estimate the cost for the project," an Obayashi official told the newspaper. "However, we'll try to make steady progress so that it won't end just up as simply a dream."