During the recently completed SESI2007 conference, I gave a presentation on who, IMHO, would build the first earth-based Space Elevator. I identified several likely candidates and then narrowed it down to two possibilities; a consortium of US businesses which had struck a deal with the US Government or a Joint Venture between the governments of Dubai (part of the UAE) and India. Without going through the whole presentation, my reasons for this conclusion were this; while the Space Elevator is a source of enormous potential wealth, no government (Dubai/India excepted) would take the risk to build it. Rather, I had identified American business entrepeneurs as people who might well take this risk, but also thought the same about the government of Dubai. This government has much in common with corporations, being flexible, adaptable and able to make decisions without resorting to a myriad of committees. With them having the vision to drive the project (and the finances to pay for it), they need a partner. India struck me as the right one; they are an emerging country, possessing an increasingly well-trained and technological-savvy work force. They are a nuclear power and have a real military and a real space program. They also have direct sea-lane access to two of the six potential Earth Port sites, including a favored one off the west coast of Australia. But I had one more reason for picking them, their long-standing rivalry with China. I think India would do much to leapfrog China and participating in the building a Space Elevator would be a perfect project for them.
I bring this all up now because of this blog posting from Centauri Dreams. Scientist and Sci-Fi author Gregory Benford recently took a trip to the Asian subcontinent and wrote an absolutely fascinating account of his journey. It has several connections to the Space Elevator (though none are explicitly mentioned). First, he meets with Arthur C. Clarke, the person who is most responsible for the popularization of the idea. Second, he describes India as an awakening giant and has this to say about their rivalry with China;
“Similarly, the Indian space program sees itself as a rival to China, not to the US or Europe. It will be amusing if audacious moves in space come from Asia as a regional competition, just as the US-USSR contest drove the first decades.”
This strikes me as absolutely accurate, though not very amusing. And, as an aside (and something I forgot to mention in my presentation), India will be hosting this years International Astronautical Congress (for the second time), a convention that, in the past, has had a Space Elevator theme as one of its tracks.
Finally, as I blogged about many months ago, I attended a Skeptics conference last year, one where this same Gregory Benford was a speaker. In a Q&A session after his presentation (and in a private conversation after that), he and I talked about a Space Elevator.
Just an interesting coincidence perhaps…
Read the blog entry; it truly is fascinating. And remember what I predict about Dubai (UAE) and India – you heard it here first.