Space Elevator History & Overview
A Space Elevator or Space Lift is a structure which elevates objects from the earth's surface vertically up a high-strength cable or ribbon into suborbital or orbital space. The lower platform is located on the equator of earth's surface and the top of the elevator is free standing (in the case of a suborbital elevator) or attached to an orbiting platform which acts as a counter weight to keep the intermediary cable taunt (in an exorbital elevator).
The various components required to construct a successful Space Elevator are currently in the research and development stage. The three major goals need to be achieved for an orbital elevator include:
1) a cable or ribbon with sufficient strength to support its own weight and that of the climber car.
2) a power source to power the climbing car; the current leading theory is for a laser at the base of the cable projecting onto solar panels attached to the climber.
3) a method of protecting the cable and orbiting platform from damage by orbiting detritus and meteorites
The first concept of an earthbound structure accessing space was thought of by Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in 1895 when he was inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris and considered a tower high enough to reach space, or 35,790 kilometers above sea level.
The space elevator would steeply reduce the cost of taking material in space (currently only possible aboard a rocket) and open up access to the moon, Mars, space exploration, Solar harvesting for earth power, extraterrestrial mining, Lunar bases and space colonization. More immediately it will provide a cost effective way to launch satellites, scientific instruments and potentially dispose nuclear waste.