As a long-time fan of the concept of a Space Elevator, and having previously devoured the thin amount of literature available on this subject, I have been eagerly awaiting this book. I was not disappointed.
This book, compiled and edited by LiftPort, Inc., has multiple authors; it’s a collection of essays about various aspects of the Space Elevator. Each entry is unique and stands on its own. Some authors tout the benefits to be gained from constructing this highway to the solar system. Others give us a description and/or suggested solution to a problem to be overcome in its construction while still others create a vision of what civilizations that have Space Elevators might be like. All are valuable and contribute to the theme of the book; Space Elevators will greatly increase our access to earth orbit and beyond and will give humanity its first “broadband access” to space.
Several of the essays struck a particular chord with me. Joan Horvath’s “Turning Space Launch into a Business” does an excellent job of describing the transition of space launches from a government program into a private enterprise. Ben Shelef’s “The Lifter: The Space Elevator’s Robotic Workhorse” and Dr. Kare’s “Powering a Space Elevator” give us a good overview of how Lifter’s might actually work. And LiftPort’s own Michael Laine makes a fine case for why private enterprise should take the lead in this undertaking in his essay “The Business Basics of Space Elevator Development”. Other readers will have their own favorites, too, I’m sure. My favorite line in the book is in Piotr Jagodzinski’s excellent essay “Why International Public Inclusion is Important” where he writes “…space should be open for all, not just a few astronauts and a couple of rich guys.” I agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly.
Criticisms? I would like to have seen the issue of Radiation being addressed as well as the issue of Space Debris. Both of these problems are well known and an essay or two sharing the current thinking on these issues would have been quite informative. Finally, a nit; I have to mildly complain about the cover of the book. No serious proposal that I’m aware of has been made to anchor a Space Elevator anywhere but in water, on the equator, usually in the Pacific Ocean. The cover of the book, however, shows a hypothetical Elevator anchored somewhere in the Eastern United States. But none of these criticisms diminish the value of this book. It’s a fine accomplishment and should contribute to LiftPort’s efforts to make Space Elevators something that the public is aware of and, more importantly, demands.
Update 22MAY06 – Here is the Space.com announcement about the book. In it is also mentioned a multi-city tour this summer to promote the book. I hope they make Chicago…