• Space elevator ride may kill humans due to ionizing radiation

    Cyrus Farivar
    Cyrus Farivar

    While Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and Arthur C. Clarke have popularized the idea of a space elevator, there are still a few kinks that need to be worked out before we start having folks hit the "door close" button for a 100,000 kilometer (62,000 miles) ride. The latest problem, according to a new article in Acta Astronautica (we've really been meaning to renew our subscription), is that a space elevator would be so slow-moving (200 kph, or 124 mph) that the half-week spent in the Van Allen radiation belt would kill any living thing without proper shielding. The radiation belt, which contains "two concentric rings of charged particles trapped by Earth's magnetic fields" doesn't affect current astronauts going to and from space because they are moving too fast to be hit by the radiation. Still, Anders Jorgensen, one of the authors of the study, doesn't think that this 62,000 mile-high problem is insurmountable: "I'm confident that we can solve it, but it's going to make things a little more complicated and a little more expensive." We appreciate your reach-for-the-skies attitude Mr. Jorgensen, but isn't protecting people from dying more than just a "little" complicated? [Via Slashdot]