A Willy-Wonka-like Space Elevator Could Be Just 20 Years Away

By Gerald Lynch on at

An elevator to space may not be the reserve of Roald Dahl children's novels, as a new report claims that what was once a science-fiction pipe-dream could become a reality within our lifetimes.

A paper titled Space Elevators: An Assessment of the Technological Feasibility and the Way Forward quizzed experts around the world about the possibility of building a "tensile" elevator up into space, using a long tether to a geostationary orbit platform. Together, the experts concluded that it is indeed possible, and legal, but that a number of obstacles would have to be navigated first.

To begin with, an immense amount of materials would be required to build the estimated 100,000 kilometre link between Earth and the platform. Some of these strong and light materials do not even exist yet, but current projections expect them to come into being within 20 years. A unified global effort would be required to realise the elevator, but it would be expected to turn a profit on investment within 10 years of being completed.

With missions to other worlds and asteroid mining discussions at the heart of future space exploration plans, a link between Earth and near-space would be vital for the delivery of materials to orbiting crews preparing to explore the final frontier. Just don't expect to be able to ride a personal elevator to the moon any time soon. [Virginia Edition via Space]

Image Credit: Near space photography via Shutterstock.com