Imagine yourself boarding some sort of a vehicle that travels along a cable to take you all the way up into space. Sounds super sci-fi? Well, that’s exactly the idea of space elevators that has left the scientific community baffled for more than a century.
However, researchers from Japan’s Shizuoka University have joined hands with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to bring this futuristic concept to reality. They are now about begin trials on a miniature version of a space elevator next week.
The scaled-down version of the system consists a box which is only six centimetres (2.4 inches) long, three centimetres wide and three centimetres high. The box will move along a 10-metre (32-foot) cable stung between two small satellites that will keep it firm in space.
On September 11, JAXA will launch an H-2B rocket which will carry the two mini satellites, one of which will contain the tiny elevator.
If successful, the test will provide proof of concept that a full-size space elevator will be able to transport actual supplies to space. During the test, the box’s movement will be monitored with cameras inside of the satellites.
“It’s going to be the world’s first experiment to test elevator movement in space,” a university spokesman told AFP.
It was in 1895 when Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky first proposed the idea of space elevators. But several technical barriers have so far stopped scientists from seriously attempting it.
Japanese construction company Obayashi, which is collaborating with Shizuoka University, is also working on other ways to build its own space elevator. The company has plans to put tourists in space in 2050.
Obayashi’s plan involves building a lift shaft 96,000 kilometres (roughly 60,000 miles) above the Earth. Carbon nanotubes are more than 20 times stronger than steel.
If space elevators become reality, it will significantly reduce the cost of delivering people and supplies to space. According to some experts, space elevators can cut the cost of such supplies from $22,000 per kilogram to only $220 per kilogram.
WE WANT SPACE ELEVATORS!