Welcome again to JJNN for Friday September 19th, 2008. Today we will be talking about elevators that have the right stuff.
Ever want to go into space but don't want to deal with all the forces caused by rockets? Well according to this article, you may be able to do that yet. A team of people in Japan are proposing that we build an elevator into space. Yep, you read that right. An elevator where someone can literally say "The next stop is Earth orbit."
So, how does this all work? Well first thing is first. You need top floor for the elevator. Scientists decided that for everything to remained balanced they would have to string the cable from a satellite that is in geosynchronous Earth orbit (i.e. always over the same spot on the earth no matter what). This satellite will be about 36000 km (22000 miles) from the surface of the Earth. The top of the elevator cable itself will be attached to another small satellite that which will be at a distance 1/4 the distance between the Earth and the moon, or about 100000 km (62000 miles). You can see the proposed idea below.
Now let's think about this for a second. The elevator idea is fine if it gets off the ground, but the elevator cable itself is going to be 100000 km long right? If that's made out of iron that will be extremely heavy, right? There is no way that they could string up that much iron. That is why this team is proposing using something called carbon nanotubes.
Carbon nanotubes are just cool, and they are just what you probably think they are. They are extremely small tubes that are made out of carbon atoms. These tubes can be used to transport stuff and they are good conductors of heat, but the important thing is that they are extremely strong and much lighter than steel. You can see a picture of what one of these tubes would look like below.
Now that we know how we might be able to build the elevator, that leaves the question of why we would build it in the first place. Well, first thing is first, an elevator to space is just plain kick ass. But, I am sure that is not on their proposal. The real reason is that if you use an elevator to get into space they cost of bring heavy things like rockets into space is about 1/100 of the cost we have to pay now. It takes a lot of money to get away from the gravity of Earth. Sure it will cost a lot of money to build, but in the long run it will be worth it.
Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 宇宙(うちゅう). It is pronounced uchuu and means outer space. Maybe I am one step closer to my dream about getting to go to outer space.
That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.