From I what I understand, the greatest difficulty in making a Space Elevator is material strength – that is, having a cable strong enough to support all the weight of the miles and miles of cable necessary.
So I understand that material research is making a lot of progress, but we’re still a long way away.
So how can we get around this, or make the problem easier to solve?
How about this: A geosynchronous satellite, with a long cable, but it doesn’t go all the way to the ground – in fact, it doesn’t even get close to the ground. It just barely dips into the highest altitude that can be reached by helium or hot-air balloons (or some other aircraft – balloons were just the first to pop into my head). Then, in what would undoubtedly be a challenging feat of ballooning, balloons (or other aircraft) could relatively cheaply bring small payloads up to the cable which could bring them into space.
Would this work? Would it make the materials problem easier?