NASA's First Annual Space Elevator Competition ends with no winners

space elevator crane

Now that the DARPA Grand Challenge has been successfully completed, competitive science enthusiasts are turning to NASA's Space Elevator Competition to get their fill of amateur engineering battles, a.k.a the world's geekiest sports. Although the Ames Research Center-based competition's prize is just $50,000, only a fraction of the $2 million DARPA bounty, the abysmal showing by all of this year's teams may mean a significant boost in prize money once potential victors actually start emerging (perhaps several years down the line). The competition is broken up into two parts, one for beam powered elevators and one for elevator tethers; however, none of the teams came close to scaling the 164-foot tether at the 1 meter/second average necessary to claim the prize, nor did any team build a tether 50% stronger than NASA's current best effort, leading to a shutout for the entire weekend. Since the best climber only managed a 60-foot ascent, we are assuming that the 1000-foot capable Sword Over Damacles is either biding it's time to make a triumphant debut in 2006, or developed an untimely fear of heights.