With the shuttle program
being mothballed, we're going to need a new way to get off this rock. How about that old space ladder concept? You know, the one riddled with issues that nearly trump its ambitions. The idea has faced its share of technological walls: NASA's related Beam Power Challenge ended without a winner
on end, and the project's Tether Challenge
remains unconquered today. Not to mention that the week-long lift might expose you to deadly levels of radiation
. Lucky for us, attendees of the annual Space Elevator Conference aren't ready to give up, and set to work last week brainstorming potential solutions. Could we replace the laser power system with solar panels? How strong are modern nanocarbons, and what issues do we need to be aware of to keep the carbon nanotube cables from breaking? Wouldn't it be cool if the next design featured six cars instead of just three? Although the outpouring of ideas flowed like water, the response to many of them seemed to be the same: we really
need to look into that. Despite the seemingly insurmountable issues, researchers remain optimistic, "We try not to be narrow-minded and say it won't happen for 150 years," stated one NASA program manager. We'll just take the stairs, thanks.