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February 24, 2012

Japanese Construction firm talks about a space elevator in 2050

Yomiuri Shimbun - It may be possible to travel to space in an elevator as early as 2050, a major construction company has announced. Obayashi Corp., headquartered in Tokyo, on Monday unveiled a project to build a gigantic elevator that would transport passengers to a station 36,000 kilometers above the Earth.

In Obayashi's project, a cable would be stretched up to 96,000 kilometers, or about one-fourth of the distance between the Earth and the moon. One end of the cable would be anchored at a spaceport on the ground, while the other would be fitted with a counterweight.

The terminal station would house laboratories and living space. The car could carry up to 30 people to the station at 200 kilometers per hour, which would mean a 7-1/2 day trip to reach the station. Magnetic linear motors are one possible means of propulsion for the car, according to Obayashi.

Whether carbon nanotubes can be mass-produced economically enough and whether various organizations from around the world can work together are two key issues facing the development of the space elevator

"At this moment, we cannot estimate the cost for the project," an Obayashi official said. "However, we'll try to make steady progress so that it won't end just up as simply a dream."

The company does not appear to have put a firm research budget into improving carbon nanotubes or to developing a profitable business around carbon nanotubes. There does not seem to be a committed development path to achieving the goal in 2050.

This seems to be no committed effort other than to casually look at the idea. The space elevator has too many challenges to overcome to be actually achieved without a serious plan. There is no serious plan here.





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