LOS ALAMOS, N.M. - Some scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory want to build an elevator reaching 62,000 miles into the sky to launch payloads into space more cheaply than the shuttle can.
"The first country that owns the space elevator will own space," said lab scientist Bryan Laubscher. "I believe that, and I think Los Alamos should be involved in making that happen."
Some researchers are working on their own time on technical details.
Five to 10 scientists at any given time are analyzing the economics, technical specifications of how the elevator would work and possible health risks to those using it. Laubscher says they hope the U.S. Department of Energy could someday use the information as a start for investing in a space elevator.
The elevator shaft would be made of a very strong, thin, lightweight material called carbon nanotubes attached to the Earth's equator. The shaft, a 32 million-story-tall cable, would be carried into orbit on a conventional spacecraft, then gradually dropped down to Earth to be attached to a platform similar to an ocean oil-drilling rig.
Solar-powered crawlers would move up and down the shaft, carrying payloads of satellites or probes to be placed in Earth's orbit or beyond. They also would attach additional cables to the main shaft that eventually would become new elevators.
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