Arthur C. Clarke, the Space Elevator, and Nanotechnology

With the recent passing of the acclaimed science fiction writer Sir Arthur C. Clarke (the last interview before his death can be found here), I thought I would take a look at what was happening in the field of the Space Elevator, which Clarke helped inspire.

About five years ago, the space elevator was one of those applications for nanotechnology that people trotted out with a wink to say, â''It could even make this possible.â''

In one of the more recent reviews of what is happening with the Space Elevatorâ''s development, Nanowerk ran a piece back in August based on a Wall Street Journal article, and it appears that the idea has not been abandoned.

According to Brad Edwards, a former Los Alamos National Lab physicist, who is quoted in the piece and has become one of the lead theorists of the space elevator, a working elevator could be built.

Edwards suggests that a 31,000-mile-long ribbon would be anchored to an oil-rig off the west coast of Mexico and launched into space in a rocket that would carry two spools of the ribbon and anchor it at an orbit of 22,000 miles.

However, just recently the New Scientist has run an article based on new research from the Astronomical Institute of the Czech Republic that suggests that 31,000-mile-long ribbon may be more susceptible to environmental forces than previously anticipated.

In the animation below provided in the New Scientist article, you get a sense that you may need a bigger weight at the end of the tether to keep it from wobbling.


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