The Future for Space Elevators: The Moon and Beyond
An interesting concept, a space elevator from the Earth to the Moon, has been suggested since 1885, or perhaps even earlier (Soderman). Several countries, including the United States, have begun working on the concept with hopes of making it a reality. The NASA Lunar Science Institute, now known as the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute, has noted that a space affiliate, the Liftport Group, is being funded through Kickstart to help finance the first step in building the space elevator (Soderman).
The Liftport website describes their moon elevator project as follows:
LiftPort’s proposed research will develop ...view middle of the document...
The IAA also predicts some of the elevator’s capabilities:
It will be able to carry up to seven 20-ton payloads at once. It will serve as a tether stretching far beyond geostationary (aka geosynchronous) orbit and held taught by an anchor of roughly two million kilograms. Sending payloads up this backbone could fundamentally change the human relationship with space — every climber sent up the tether could match the space shuttle in capacity, allowing up to a “launch” every couple of days (Templeton).
In addition, the ISS also notes that the space elevator is, “ . . . Not only is a geostationary orbit intrinsically useful for satellites, but it’s far enough up the planet’s gravity well to be able to use it in cheap, Earth-assisted launches.”
Even more promising, they note that, “A mission to Mars might begin by pushing off near the top of the tether and using small rockets to move into a predictably unstable fall — one, two, three loops around the Earth and off we go with enough pep to cut huge fractions off the fuel budget. Setting up a base on the Moon or Mars would be relatively trivial, with a space elevator in place” (Templeton). When considering the NASA planned missions to Mars, the envisioned space elevator would be a very useful asset for the American Astronauts.
One important consideration, as usual, is the financial aspect or expense. Is the space elevator realistically and economically affordable? The ISS also addresses this vital concern:
Those are not small advantages, and are worth significant investment from the private sector. Governments and corporations spend billions installing infrastructure in space — an elevator could easily pay for itself, and demand investment from anyone with an interest in ensuring cheap access to it down the line. A space elevator is relevant to scientists, telecoms, and...