Econintersect: Here is the introduction to "Stairway to the Stars" lyrics by Mitchell Parish:
There's a silver trail of moonlight leading upward to the sky
And the night is like a velvet lullaby
There's a heaven of blue
And we'll go there, just you and I
Let's build a stairway to the stars
And climb that stairway to the stars
With love beside us to fill the night with a song
This story is about a project a little less ambitious: an elevator to the moon.
According to an article in GizMag, LiftPort, a Seattle Washington company, plans to build a solid ribbon from the earth's surface at the equator to a space station in geostationary orbit 22,238 miles above the earth. From there space travel can be accomplished by just floating away with power needed only for establishing, changing and maintaining direction. Eventually these ribbon structures can be built on other planets to make interplanetary travel and materials transport very inexpensive.
But the project has to overcome some serious obstacles. From GizMag:
The space elevator is simple in concept, but nearly impossible in execution. The main problem is that no material known to science is strong enough to make the ribbon. Steel and titanium are much too weak. In fact, the ribbon needs to be 60 to 200 times the strength of steel if it isn’t going to snap under its own weight. Quartz fibers and even diamonds have been considered and recently carbon nanotubes seem promising, but engineers are still a long way from answering that basic question of what the heck to make it out of.
Other problems include the cold in the upper atmosphere, which plays havoc with lubricants, materials and electronics – not to mention the danger of ice building up on the ribbon. Then there’s inclement weather buffeting it. Above the atmosphere, satellites and space debris whizzing by pose their own challenges.
The materials do exist today that can support the forces on a ribbon to a satellite from the moon and LiftPort is planning to start that construction by 2020.
So there you have it - an elevator to the moon!!!
Econintersect has visited the LiftPort website and found a very bare bones structure, apparently still in early construction. According to the article in GizMag the company has no capital and hopes to raise $1 million for feasibility and design studies.
The moon elevator effort may have some problems with its name. There is another LifePort (and it's in the same state) which is a part of United Technologies (NYSE:UTX). Its website describes it as a Sikorsky Aerospace Services Company. Econintersect could find no connection between the two LifePorts and no mention of space elevators on the well established space service company web site.
Editor's comment: If there is a problem with the name for the space elevator venture perhaps there could be some doubt about how they would handle the slightly more complicated tasks that come after selecting a name.
All that discussion aside, below is a conceptual representation of a cargo capsule riding up (or down) a space elevator.
- LiftPort plans to build space elevator on the Moon by 2020 (David Szondy, GizMag, 27 August 2012)
- LIFTPORT (Website)
- LifePort Inc, Woodland, WA (Website)