I leave this evening to fly to Luxembourg. There I will attend the EuroSpaceward Conference on “Space Elevator, CNT Tether Design & Lunar Industrialization Challenges“. I’ll also be giving a presentation entitled: Space Elevator Consortium: stimulation and alignment of SE research activities.
Saying all of that is quite a mouthful…
I’m still polishing my presentation (sorry Markus) but will share it with my readers after I give it. I can give you the abstract however:
In the many years since the concept of a Space Elevator has been popularized and advanced in Science Fiction, the number of people actively supporting this concept has not appreciably increased. In addition, the theoretical and practical boundaries on the strength of carbon nanotubes are beginning to point towards a material weaker than hoped for (but still strong enough to build a Space Elevator, albeit with reduced capacity). Given these facts, how do those of us in the Space Elevator community move this idea forward?
We first need to recognize and acknowledge that the Space Elevator is a “solution in search of a problem”. We then must find the need that a Space Elevator (and only a Space Elevator) can fulfill. The author proposes that the goals of Space Solar Power and the colonization of the Moon and Mars can only be accomplished with a Space Elevator and he further proposes that the Space Elevator community speak with one voice on this topic and work to ally itself with the proponents of Space Solar Power and Moon/Mars colonization.
While the recent successes at the Space Elevator Games certainly has been a ‘shot in the arm’ for the Space Elevator effort, it is no secret that we’re still a small group – and not really growing. Why is this? Certainly a major reason is that the long/strong carbon nanotubes needed to build a Space Elevator do not yet exist. But another reason, I think, is that everyone in the effort has their own ideas on what a Space Elevator can and cannot do and, consequently, their own ideas on how to proceed. If there were thousands and thousands of us, this would be all well and good. But with such a small community, these non-unified efforts quickly lead to little or no results. This has to change. As the President of the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC), it’s my job to do this. I need to get all of us to rally around a common theme, a common goal, a common purpose – and that common purpose has to be more than just “Let’s build a Space Elevator because it’s cool”. That’s not going to get it done. As I say in the abstract, we need to find the critical need(s) for which a Space Elevator is the best or only solution and then ally ourselves with people working to satisfy those needs.
I am going to be paying MUCH closer attention than I have in the past to people who want to colonize the Moon and/or Mars as I think the Space Elevator is the only way to go to accomplish these goals. The more realistic souls among these groups (i.e., those who have come up with some defensible numbers) may indeed be our future ‘best friends’. In addition, I’m going to take another look at Space Solar Power (though I’m very dubious that this can work on a commercial scale) and finally see if there is any possibility that a Space Elevator can be made economically viable by taking the majority of the commercial satellite launch market.
I invite comment and (reasoned) suggestions – it’s time to get serious guys…
And, on a final note, as I AM the Space Elevator Blogger, I’ll be reporting from the conference as often as I can.