Building a space elevator would stimulate the economy

It’s a wonder why we aren’t doing it already. Not only would it create a ton of new jobs to build the thing, it would promote stellar research, nano research and space research, just off the top of my head. And surely it would increase international trade…

…why aren’t we doing it? Did the stimulus bill include funding for this?

Do we actually need a space elevator?

It’s not in the stimulus package, or in the new budget.

I doubt it will be in any future stimulus packages or budgets until we are way over this recession.

I’m as big a fan of the Space Elevator as anyone, and I honestly think it’ll happen in my lifetime. But the time is not now: The technology for making carbon nanofibers isn’t yet where it will need to be, and none of the rest of the project can go forward without that. So all we’d be stimulating right now (when the stimulus is needed) is those people working in that specific area of research.

The great thing is, though, carbon nanofiber is a promising area of research even without the Space Elevator. People are going to develop cheap ways to make them, if only to use them to make golf clubs and fishing lines. Let the research continue, and once we do have the nanofiber golf clubs and fishing lines, and maybe a suspension bridge or two, then we can bring the Space Elevator onto the front burner.

I sat through an interesting presentation at a sci-fi convention last year in which the speaker (who had some fairly-decent space-buff credentials) pointed out that if we had some kind of super-light super-strong material such that we could build a space elevator, we could more easily use it to build super-light super-strong launch vehicles. So, space elevator (estimated cost: $infinity trillion) or ten million Saturn-sized rockets, each several orders of magnitude more efficient than existing designs (estimated cost: $a bunch)?

Well there is the fact that it would be super expensive. Also, have you ever seen what a taut cable does when it suddenly snaps? It uncoils and whips around like an angry snake. Do you really think that is a good idea with a 500 mile long cable?

Bryan: I think the ideas of Buckminster Fuller will be applied at the nano-scale in materials a lot more, and we’ll be seeing those materials start to appear within the next twenty years. I expect another major space push by mid-century. People will capitalize on the 100 year anniversaries of everything in order to gain funding for projects.

Not to nitpick here, but it’s not a cable 500 miles long. It’s a cable 90,000 miles long. Ninety thousand miles long.

As long as one billion dollar bills laid end to end, so if we could figure out how to make it out of dollar bills it would only cost one billion dollars–off to the drawing board!

Not only don’t we have the material yet, we don’t have the launch capacity to get all the material into orbit, or to build the major construction site there that we’d need to build it. it has to be in synchronous orbit, remember, which is a lot further out than where the shuttle goes now. The best thing you can do for this is NSF funding for the materials and getting a decent launch vehicle.

Wait, aren’t carbon nanofibers carcinogenic? That would seem to be a stumbling block.

So build it in Mexico.

Oh good so it can wrap around the planet a couple times while it’s whipping aroudn like a snake. :wink:

There isn’t enough money in the world to build a space elevator, and half the technology to construct and operate it isn’t worked out yet.

Since there’s really no chance at all that such a thing could be constructed in our lifetimes - sorry, Chronos, it is not going to happen - you would probably get much more effective stimulus by simply dropping bales of money out of helicopters flying over low-income neighborhoods.

Lots of things we use everyday are carcinogenic. We can encase carbon nanofibers so that they don’t blow around like dust. Just coat the structure with some kind of polymer resin.

To be fair, not neccessarily IIRC.

I seem to recall proposals for such things that are like big spoked wheels that orbit the earth, with the tips of the cables droping down into the upper atmosphere.

Not that that would be remotely easy either, but at least the cables are only hundreds of miles long instead of tens of thousands.

We already have a material which is plenty light and strong enough to build rockets out of… It’s called aluminum. The weight of the hull of any rocket is negligible compared to the weight of the fuel-- That’s the reason it costs so much to launch anything into orbit on a rocket. A space elevator bypasses that requirement.

The cost estimates I’ve seen are in the vicinity of 50 billion dollars. A government could easily afford that.

Oh, and as for the “what if it breaks” argument, in that case it would burn up in the atmosphere before hitting anything on the ground. We’d be out our initial investment, of course, but it wouldn’t be a cataclysmic global apocalypse.

This. I want this done. In fact, if you want to test this hypothesis out I personally volunteer my neighborhood for the test trial.

Besides, most designs seem to call for the elevator to be anchored either on an island or a refitted deep-sea platform so the risk of miles of cable plummeting to the ground isn’t that big anyway.

A space elevator wouldn’t actually touch the ground directly anyway. The bottom end would be a very short distance above the ground and ‘held’ by something. The reason for this is to prevent vibrations from earthquakes and the like.

Plummeting straight down isn’t the issue. It’s what happens if it starts wrapping that becomes a problem.

There was a recent article (somewhere? might have been a link on slashdot) about a study that concludes there would be a requirement for thrusters to stabilize the cable. This adds a new dimension to the complexity of the project.