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Riding A Magic Ribbon Into Space


By James Donahue


Talk about creative and imaginative thinking . . . a group of scientists recently put their heads together in Washington D. C. to talk about building an elevator that carries both men and equipment into space.


The brain child of Bradley Edwards, Director of Research for the Institute for Scientific Research, Fairmont, West Virginia, the space elevator seems, at first, to defy logic.


The idea is to project a 62,000 mile-long ribbon of carbon nanotubes, a super-strong ribbon that uses the centripetal force of the Earth’s spin to hang from the ground and fall outward into space.


Once in place, a “climber,” or machine that rides the ribbon, would haul passenger modules and cargo up and down the length of the ribbon. At the far end, obviously, would hang an orbiting space platform.


The concept hinges on the new science of nanotechnology and a few other freaky new concepts including power beaming and the hardware for building a climber. Above all, the project depends upon money, issues of health and safety, and international politics.


It’s a revolutionary idea, but one that already is catching the attention of big business interests as a low cost way of getting equipment and even space ships out of the gravitational field of Earth and on their way.


Edwards believes the concept of an elevator into space may even provide a safer and more effective way for travelers to exit and land on this and other planets in the solar system.


He believes the elevator can be constructed and in operation within 15 years after it gets a formal approval by what-ever country or company that chooses to build it.


While he admits that there is a lot of research and development to be done before such a device can be built, Edwards believes the concept would literally open the door to real exploration of space.


“The risk of a Challenger or Columbia shuttle tragedy is basically removed,” he told in a recent interview. “You don’t have the large energy transfer type events of a rocket launch or reentry.


“No need for heavy-lift vehicles. You can eliminate a lot of the other development risks. The whole space exploration program could be very straightforward and become successful pretty quick.”


Buck Rogers lives!