Space elevator

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The transport from Mars' surface to Mars' orbit and vice versa can be achieved by a Space Elevator. The idea is to install a high-tensile rope from the surface to the synchronous orbit and a certain length beyond, connected to a counter weight.

Since the gravity of Mars is lower than the gravity of Earth the requirements to the tensile strength of the rope is less, making this construction easier.

Original concept

The original concept for a "Space Tower" can be traced back to Konstantin Tsiolkovsky,[1] a Russian rocket and space pioneer. He is quoted as saying in 1895:[2]

"...on the tower, as one climbed higher and higher up it, gravity would decrease gradually; and if it were constructed on the Earth's equator and, therefore, rapidly rotated together with the earth, the gravitation would disappear not only because of the distance from the centre of the planet, but also from the centrifugal force that is increasing proportionately to that distance. The gravitational force drops... but the centrifugal force operating in the reverse direction increases. On the earth the gravity is finally eliminated at the top of the tower, at an elevation of 5.5 radii of the earth (22,300 miles)..."

Naturally, the Space Tower would be crushed under it's own weight, so the idea of a Space Elevator was born. In 1960, Yuri N. Artsutanov,[3] a Russian engineer, conceived the possibility of using a "skyhook" where a satellite is inserted into geosynchronous orbit and a cable lowered to the Earth's surface. As the cable is lowered, a counterweight is attached to the satellite and pushed into higher and higher orbit, thus keeping the cable's center-of-mass in a constant position. Once attached, the cable would be under tension, allowing payloads to be transported into the satellite's orbit.

Current Technological Approach

There are already competitions to build climbing technologies, aiming to construct a machine that is able to climb a rope with a velocity of at least 1 meter per second.

In Science-Fiction

  • Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson (1992, 1993, 1996). Space elevators on Earth and on Mars where the cables are made of carbon nanotube which are manufactured on an asteroid. The resulting cable is then lowered into the atmosphere to be attached to the surface. An asteroid is used as a counterweight. During the Mars revolution, the Red Mars novel graphically depicts the effects of a catastrophic space elevator failure, when the cable is severed in orbit.[4]
  • In Star Trek: Voyager episode Rise the idea of a space elevator is part the story.[5]

See also


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