Category Archives: Interviews / Presentations


The Space Elevator vs. Fusion Power

In a recent episode of The Space Show, the show’s host, Dr. David Livingston, interviewed Bruce Pittman.  The topic of the show was Fusion Power – what is the status, when might it be available, problems in creating it, etc.  Now frankly, I know very little about the ins and outs of fusion power, how feasible it is, etc., so I’m in no position to judge Mr. Pittman’s veracity or expertise on this subject.  What did interest me, however (and why I’m mentioning this interview on the Space Elevator Blog), was when a listener asked Mr. Pittman about what he thought what was “more realistic”; fusion power for rocket propulsion or a Space Elevator.  Not surprisingly, Mr. Pittman said “fusion power”.  He freely admits he doesn’t know much about the Space Elevator, but says that, based on his trips to the last “two X-Prize Cups” to watch the Space Elevator Games (?!), there seems to be some “real challenges” to building a Space Elevator, specifically wind issues (and tether strength) and the problem with space debris.

I don’t have the background to make this comparison on my own so I won’t try.  But perhaps you have your own opinion 🙂

The discussion about fusion vs. Space Elevator is near the end of the interview, beginning at the 52:28 mark.

More updates from LaserMotive

LaserMotive has just announced an Open House on February 23rd for their new shop (mentioned earlier here).  If you are in the Seattle area and have any interest at all in Space Elevators or the technology used in the Space Elevator Games or just want to talk to anyone from the LaserMotive team, here’s your chance to take a close-up tour.

Also, I did hear from LaserMotive’s Jordin Kare about what they were up to, especially at the recently concluded Photonics West Show:

[Space Elevator Blog – SEB] – Why did Lasermotive decide to use DILAS equipment in the 2007 Space Elevator Games?
[Jordin Kare – JK] – We had been talking to a couple of other companies, and had found at least one workable option, but we held off placing an order until after Photonics West.  I talked to several manufacturers at last year’s Photonics West.  I also talked to people I knew  from a company I used to consult for, who are heavy users of laser diodes, and they strongly recommended I talk to DILAS.  I spoke to Georg Treusch at PW, and we made a deal on the spot.

[SEB] – What factors will be most important to you and Lasermotive in deciding what power source you’ll be using in this year’s Games?
[JK] – Ease of development and overall project cost.

[SEB] – Will Lasermotive be attending the Photonics West show and will Lasermotive be “interviewing” with TRUMPF for possible use of their equipment?
[JK] – I’ll be at PW, but on behalf of my employer, not (primarily) LaserMotive.  However, I’m sure I’ll talk to some of the laser companies while there.  I won’t discuss (at least for publication) any particular plans.

[SEB] – What are Lasermotive’s goals for this year’s competition?
[JK] – Compete and win!   Seriously, we have decided we’ll try to compete this year, despite the short schedule, but we are still deciding exactly what we’ll build — and we’re still very concerned about the feasibility of Spaceward’s proposed contest setup.

Thank you Jordin!

National Space Society to compete in the 2008 Space Elevator Games

While perusing the current list of team’s entered into this year’s Climber/Power-Beaming competition, I noticed that the National Space Society (NSS) had recently been added to the mix.  Now I’m a member of NSS so I was quite intrigued as to what they planned to do.  I recently spoke with Bert Murray from the NSS.  Here is what I learned from the conversation.

Bert (with the enthusiastic backing of George Whitesides, the Executive Director of NSS) has recruited the beginnings of the NSS team.  In addition to Bert (who is the team lead), the team includes Matt Abrahms (Chief Engineer), Steve Laroche (command and control), Chris Barnes, Aaron Bakos (who works at Bosch Home Applications, a company that uses Trumpf lasers for fabrication) and Al Burke (Robotics).

Matt Abrahms, as you may recall, was the guy who was behind the Starclimber entrant into the 2006 Space Elevator Games.  It’s great to see him back in the picture.

Bert is looking to expand this team (to at least 10 members) with the emphasis of making it a “senior team”.  Bert, who has 30 years experience in the aerospace and transportation industries, works at Lockheed-Martin during his “day job”.  He is looking to put together a team that has an “engineering” mindset, meaning a heavy emphasis on planning, project management and testing, testing, testing (“build a little, test a little, learn a lot”).

IMHO, the only teams with a chance to win the Climber/Power-Beaming prize now, with the requirements so high, are teams that take this engineering-management approach so I certainly concur with the way they are organizing.

They have talked with Trumpf about using their equipment as a power source; talks are ongoing.

Bert tells me that they want to compete in 2008, and hopefully win, of course, but they are starting late and are focused on the competition in 2009 as well (as is the team from the University of Michigan).

Here’s wishing them luck!

“A dirty little four letter word – cost”

There is a TV/DVD series out now called The Universe.  It’s a series of shows about all aspects of, naturally enough, The Universe, and everything in it.  Recently the aired an episode entitled “Space Travel“, Professor Michio Kaku (who I posted about earlier) discussed the issue of the cost of getting to space and how a Space Elevator could significantly lessen that.


Dr. Michio Kaku website

Back in January of 2007, the Discovery Channel Series 2057 aired an episode which used a Space Elevator as a backdrop.  I wrote about it here.

I bring this up again because I’ve found that Dr. Michio Kaku’s website has now linked to a YouTube video containing a portion of this show, the portion where he is speaking, of course 🙂

I looked up Dr. Kaku in Wikipedia (sorry, Dr. Edwards) and the guy has a MOST impressive resume.

(Picture from Cosmos Magazine – you should read the article in this picture link – it is quite interesting)


Regular readers of this blog or those that follow the goings-on at the Spaceward site know that TRUMPF decided to help out, big-time, in the upcoming Space Elevator Games.  This is well-summarized on the Spaceward web site:

“We’re thrilled to announce that Laser tool manufacturer TRUMPF has stepped forward with a lucrative offer to support teams with its state-of-the-art laser equipment.

Being the world leader in laser technology, TRUMPF took a natural interest in the power beaming games, and is providing both hardware and expertise to enable the 1-km climb.”

I have posed several questions to TRUMPFlger Schlueter about the technology, the upcoming games and TRUMPF’s goals.  He (and Dave Marcotte, also of TRUMPF) have kindly answered.  Note that if you are unable to read all of the slides or the table, you can click on them for a larger version.

Space Elevator Blog [SEB] – I noticed that in the current issue of “Laser Community” (, a TRUMPF publication, the last page states the following: “100,000 Kilometers: Across this distance, laser beams may one day power the motors of the so-called Space Elevator…”  Before last year’s Space Elevator Games, were you aware of the concept of the Space Elevator?  If so, how did you learn about it?
Holger Schlueter [HS]– Hello Ted !  TRUMPF is a big, multinational company – I actually saw the laser community magazine for the first time yesterday. I was as surprised as you. TRUMPF in Germany was obviously as intrigued by the space elevator concept as we were here in the United States. Maybe they had read the same Spiegel Online article that I had read. Well, anyways, end of October I sent Ben a message with a terribly faulty calculation claiming the space elevator would never work because of the beam divergence. Ben, being the nice and courteous person he is, wrote back friendly and humbly pointed out the embarrasing mistake I had made. So I did the calculation again and realized you actually can transmit a multi-kW laser beam several hundred thousand km into space with manageable divergence. So I repented 😉 and a very good relationship with Ben began.

Did I know about the space elevator before?  Faintly in the back of my head I recollect something about the Space Elevator, but I always put it into the realm of impossible science fiction because it seemed so infeasible to me.

[SEB]– What do you think of the idea of a Space Elevator and do you think that TRUMPF equipment can play a key part in its construction?
[HS] – Well, the two big obstacles are:

  1. Beam divergence and control of multi-kW beams – after correcting the calculation it seems very feasible to me that lasers can provide the necessary 1000 kW class beam with the necessary beam quality.
  2. Tether strength – I don’t understand much about it – but it seems the teams around the world are making great progress.

As a laser source you have several different options:

  1. Diode lasers
  2. CO2 lasers
  3. Diode pumped solid state lasers – here you have basically another three options – see slide:


In evaluating the beam sources there are many aspects to consider, for instance: Power, Scalability, Beam divergence, Efficiency, Wavelength, Receiver efficiency.

Here is a compilation of currently relevant laser technologies:


Beam quality and Brightness: Power scalability itself is not the important aspect – it is important to be able to increase the power without changing the beam quality of the beam (for TRUE power scalability see:  Beam quality is measured as half the beam divergence times the beam radius (units: mm mrad) and tells you for a given beam diameter the divergence of the beam. Beam quality cannot be improved using passive optical elements without reducing the power of the beam. In other words: The brightness (Power per steradian) of a beam source cannot be increased using passive optical elements.  This is VERY important for the space elevator, since we want to shoot the beam at a receiver that can be up to 100,000 km away.  Ben tells me, one needs full power on the elevator up to a distance of 6,000km then a portion of the beam is good enough. I have to believe him there. So, taking these numbers you have for instance for the available Disk laser: 10 kW with 8 mm mrad beam divergence with a (hypothetical) laser aperture of 10 m diameter sending the beam space ward (I chose 10m as it represents todays largest optical telescope apertures, for instance Keck Observatory in Hawaii – you need diffraction limited optical performance on the sending end – therefore this seems a good comparison to me).  In this case the beam grows with a divergence of 1.6e-3 mrad (8 mm mrad / 5000 mm) – the radius therefore grows by 1.6mm for every km – 9600 mm in 6,000km distance.  The entire beam therefore has a diameter of 30 m (2 x 9.6m+10m) in 6,000 km distance. That seems quite feasible to me for a space craft as the receiver does not have to be diffraction limited, it only requires the size.

By building more advanced resonators we can filter higher order modes in the disk laser and achieve 12 kW with 1 mm mrad (This is a hero results that was actually achieved in government lab). That already gives us a beam size of 12,4m instead of 30m!

In order to now scale this power to 100 or even 1000kW the thin disk laser gives us several options (from now on I only talk hypothetically and about hero results):

  • We can currently extract 7 kW per disk and can put 4 disks optically in series – that should allow us eventually to achieve 28 kW at 1 mm mrad – putting disk in one resonator in series does not decrease the beam quality.
  • We can wavelength combine at least 4 different wavelength into a 28 kW x 4 = 112 kW of the same beam quality (since you can superimpose beams of different wavelength without deteriorating the beam quality – called wavelength multiplexing).

This gives us – quite feasible in the next 5 years – 112 kW at 1 mm mrad.

If we would now install 10 separate beam stations that would track the space elevator with a gimble system we can achieve 1000 kW beam with TODAYS’ technology!


The most important property of the Thin Disk Laser is its ability to be scaled into the 100 kW regime without sacrificing beam quality. This is the major advantage the Thin Disk Geometry has over the fiber geometry for the space elevator project. For an exact definition of power scalability see the following article: In this slide you can see that limitations on the scalability of the disk concept to power becomes relevant only at 100 kW per disk or more.


Another big obstacle will be the receiver efficiency at the different wavelengths.

  1. Diodes have an advantage since their emission wavelength can be tailored to match maximum quantum efficiency of the receiver material and they are they might even allow the usage of Si as the receiver material. TRUMPF has a diode laser factory near Princeton, New Jersey – I was their GM for three years – and I can see possible advances with super high brightness diodes and dense wavelength multiplexing that might make this another good contender for the beam source of a real elevator.
  2. CO2 lasers emit at 10.6 um – there is no direct conversion using the photoelectric effect feasible – therefore you would need a thermoelectric conversion process, for instance a sterling engine could be used.
  3. The diode pumped solid state lasers (Disk, Fiber, Rod) emit beyond the fundamental absorption line of Si and therefore need Ge receivers or even ATJ (advanced triple junction – three different receiver types on top of each other) (see the graph below and the white paper link below):


Excerpt from

Ben should tell you some more about the finite efficiency of all receivers, as this will provide maybe the THIRD large challenge for the space elevator project – how do you actually remove the excess heat in space that stems from the limited efficiency of any such receiver. And the heat generated may be substantial: Imagine a 1000 kW beam converted with 80% efficiency – you still have to cool 200 kW – how do you do that in vacuum?

[SEB] – What are you offering this year to teams who want to use your equipment?
[HS]– We have promised to offer at least a 8 kW TruDisk laser with 8 mm mrad. This laser is fiber delivered and the teams would have to interface into our safety system and our fiber delivery receptacle. We can provide all the necessary documentation and components for the teams. They will also get enough test time at our or our partners labs.  The project leader for the actual interaction with the teams is Dave Marcotte, our national head of the service and training organization – he is a space enthusiast himself I would like you to ask him directly about the exact deliverables of TRUMPF.
Dave Marcotte [DM]– We look forward to assisting the groups as they progress.  We are estimating the need for 4 “hot laser” testing opportunities for each team at intermediate points in the development process.  We also plan to have a “dress rehersal” before the big competition.   TRUMPF and the teams will need to work together on the “design of test” for each phase.  We have highly knowledgeable people in our Service Group, Product Management and R&D who can be referenced for insight on laser technology, optics, interfacing, safety and integrated systems.

[SEB]– I understand that TRUMPF will be interviewing contestants in this year’s Space Elevator Games at the upcoming Photonics West Trade Show.  What are you going to be looking for?
[DM]– Difficult question.  Basically, I feel key elements of a successful development project are knowledge, organization, attitude and resources.  We will consider the skill set of the group and how the players are presented as a knowledge base.  We will consider the proposed approach to solving the problem, more than the hypothetical solution.  An organized project plan with a best guess on which skills will be utilized is important to pulling the various technologies together into an integrated solution.  Frequently I have seen attitude as a defining difference when presented with development frustrations and failures encountered by individual members and the team.  There is a saying… something like…. “Inspiration vs Perspiration”.  Available resources are unfortunately not connected to knowledge, organization and attitude.  I have seen great guys, who work together seamlessly, but without resources (hardware, software, time, space…) they are starved and unable to demonstrate success.  The resources the group brings to the table will complete TRUMPF’s contribution.

[SEB] – Are you planning on attending the Space Elevator Games this year?
[HS] – Absolutely & I hope to ride the first elevator in 2025.
[DM]– As project manager I plan to be at the games to make sure the laser is transported, installed and operating, with all teams supported.  As for the first elevator ride… I will keep the load balanced, riding with Holger.  🙂

Thank you very much gentlemen for your time.  I look forward to meeting you at the upcoming Games.

The return of MClimber

The University of Michigan’s MClimber, an entrant into the 2006 Space Elevator Games – Power Beaming competition, had the distinction of being the first entrant to make it all the way to the top of the ~50m ribbon.  They were not able to do so in a prize-winning time, but it was an impressive showing nonetheless.  They intended to compete in the 2007 Games but due to various internal issues they could just not get ready in time.

However, they are raring to go in this year’s Games.  I asked their team captain, Andrew Lyjak, for his thoughts on the upcoming Games and received this reply:

Space Elevator Blog [SEB] What factors will be most important to you and the M Climber Team in deciding what power source you’ll be using in this year’s Games?
[MClimber] The MClimber team went through a very rigorous analysis of whether we wanted to proceed with a Microwave or a Laser power beaming system. As you may know, our initial plan was to go with a Microwave system, but due to a variety of factors we have instead proceeded with development of a Laser system. Some of the considerations that lead us to reach this decision were:

1)Team experience with Photovoltaic cells. While we have been using photovoltaic cells to power our climber for the past couple years, Microwave rectenna design was a new field to us. The price of development for similar rectenna and photovoltaic systems was calculated out to be a lot closer than we had originally anticipated and so we chose to stick with what we know, choosing a photovoltaic receiver array over development of a rectenna receiver.

2) Safety considerations: We are a student project, and so when our occupational safety department advised us to stay away from developing a microwave power beaming system, we listened. Lasers are not new to the U of M campus, which made it a lot easier for us to get the go ahead from the safety department for a laser system.

3) Cost: Originally we believed that a laser capable of producing the power that we needed was way beyond our budget, but now we believe that the cost of a laser system is something that we can afford, albeit with a lot of work. Subsequently we now have a full time business team to work with the engineering community and get our name out, and get some sponsors. Our business plan is modeled after the highly successful U of M solarcar team.

[SEB] Will the M Climber Team be attending the Photonics West show and will you be “interviewing” with TRUMPF for possible use of their equipment?
[MClimber] MClimber would like to attend the Photonics West show but does not have the budget at this time to afford the trip. Currently we have plans to talk to TRUMPF in a Detroit location.

[SEB] What are the M Climber Team’s goals for this year’s competition?
[MClimber] MClimber will be demonstrating a rugged climber system in 2008, capable of ascending and descending the 1km tether many times without risk of failure, and will be testing controls systems for the climber. We plan competing in 2009.

[SEB] And one more question.  After M Climber’s great showing in the 2006 competition, we missed you, very much, in the 2007 competition.  What happened – what caused you not to compete last year?
[MClimber] MClimber ran into prototyping issues in the summer, that spiraled out of our control and resulted in us losing too much time to consider competing in October.

Thanks Ted!

Andrew Lyjak
andrew.lyjak [at]
MClimber team lead

I look forward to their entry this year.  Their 2006 entry was compact, elegant and well-built.  I expect nothing less from this year.  And, as they’ve been down this road before (i.e., they are an experienced team), they will be someone to reckon with in the competition (either this year or next).

Comments from TXL

TXL is a new entrant into this year’s Space Elevator Games Power Beaming Competition.  They are planning on using lasers to power their climber, but not in the “conventional” sense, i.e., beaming the lasers onto photovoltaic cells and running their motors off of the resultant electricity.

I emailed David Nemir, the fearless leader of team TXL to ask him what they planned to do.  Here is his reply:

“TXL Group is a start-up company that was founded in 2007 to refine and produce a high efficiency thermoelectric generation technology that has been under development for several years. Thermoelectric devices generate electrical power from a thermal differential. As TXL migrates from theory to lab to field, we are interested in venues where we can showcase our technology and “make a lot of noise”.

There will be substantial waste heat with any laser powered application and thermoelectric generation represents a means to recover some of that energy. We have been watching the space elevator competition since its inception, with an eye to donating thermoelectric cells to one or more teams in exchange for press and PR coverage. However, at the present time, since TXL does not have a finished product and is not yet prepared to release proprietary information, the company decided to field its own entry.

Our concept is to use a combination of phase change and thermoelectric technology to provide energy to the climber. Maintaining the “cold side” temperature is a major challenge and we will likely use a closed cycle radiative heat exchanger as part of the system.

Because our approach is based upon heat, we are not concerned about the wavelength of the laser and so the 1020 nm laser that Trumpf has so generously offered seems like a good fit. The TXL Team will be attending the Photonics West show and will be talking to TRUMPF at that time.  During the show, we would like to also meet with others in the Space Elevator community. Jan Beck and I will be at the show on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning and we can be reached by cell at (915) 449-1907.   Give us a call — we’ll buy the coffee.”

So there you have it.  If you are a member of another Power Beaming team or a member of the press and you are attending the show (I’m jealous if you are), give Jan or David a call.

It occurred to me that some other Climber entries have also tried to power their entry via heat by using Stirling Engines – none successfully so far.  I looked up Thermoelectric Effect in Wikipedia (sorry, Dr. Edwards) and found that it is quite different.  I will be very curious to see how well they do this year.  Good luck to them!

DILAS – The Diode Laser Company

Teams competing in this year’s Space Elevator Games are sure to beat a path to the DILAS booth at the Photonics West Exhibition.  Both USST and Lasermotive, the two laser-powered teams in the 2007 Space Elevator Games, used Laser Diode products from DILAS to power their climber and many more are certainly considering using them this year.

Dr. Georg Treusch from DILAS has kindly consented to answer a few questions for the Space Elevator Blog:

Space Elevator Blog [SEB]:Before being approached by USST and Lasermotive, were you aware of the concept of the Space Elevator?
[Dr. Treusch]: Yes, I have been in contact with Brad Edwards since the Games in Albuquerque.

[SEB]: What do you think of the idea of a Space Elevator?
[Dr. Treusch]:Very challenging to accomplish. In general it is a very good idea and at the same level and beneficial for the world as the solar car competition in Australia which will lead us away from burning our resources.
[SEB]: What are you and DILAS offering this year to teams who want to use your equipment?
[Dr. Treusch]: We are talking right now to more than 5 teams about using our new design which has to be finalized after we have solicited all needs from the teams. It will be a 2.5kW base module with all the optics to generate the beam for the 1 km distance and a motorized optic to match the beam to the panel size at various distance.

[SEB]: In the 2007 Games, both USST and Lasermotive used DILAS laser diodes.  For the uninitiated (including myself), what is the difference between a “laser diode” and a “laser”?
[Dr. Treusch]: A laser typically generates one beam with high brightness using a gain medium and two mirrors. A laser diode does the same on a miniature scale. The emitting area is about 1 um high and typically 50 – 200 um wide the cavity length (distance between the mirrors) is about 1 – 3 mm with an output power of 3-5W. To get to more power those emitters are arranged on a laser diode bar (10mm wide, up to 50 emitter) with >100W power. The bars are mounted on high efficient heat-sinks which can be stacked for even more power. By combining multiple emitters the power can be increased but not the brightness. A fiber laser or disk laser with > 1kW power may have a beam quality of less than 3 mmxmrad (beam size x divergence) whereas the diode laser stack has a 10x higher value and therefore a lower brightness.

[SEB]: Telling us as much as you can divulge, how would you compare the approaches between Lasermotive and USST in using DILAS equipment?
[Dr. Treusch]: USST used the approach for an optimized optical system for the maximum distance required and matched the beam size at lower altitudes to the panel with optics.  Lasermotive used stacks with lower brightness and did spread out the beam already at ground level (more optics needed and hard to control and to keep the stacks protected).

[SEB]: I know you attended last year’s Space Elevator Games.  Are you planning on attending the Games this year too?
[Dr. Treusch]: For sure and I will be available at the Photonics West show in San Jose next week at our booth #6073.

Thank you Dr. Treusch!

BBC Documentary on Carbon Nanotubes and the Space Elevator

The BBC Documentary series, “Visions of the Future” recently aired an episode talking about Carbon Nanotubes and the Space Elevator.

Courtesy of the magic of YouTube, this video is now online.  You can tell that this video is slightly dated as it discusses the Space Elevator Game prizes of “half a million dollars” (it’s double that now), but it was made just before the last competition; the teams from DeltaX and LaserMotive make a cameo appearance.


“The Space Elevator: Economics and Applications”

As I have written before, Search Engines are funny things.  They just turned up this paper, presented at the 2004 International Astronautical Congress, held in Vancouver, Canada in 2004.

It was presented by Dr. David Raitt and Dr. Brad Edwards. who, incidentally, were the Editors of Running the Line, “Selected stories and images from the 2005 Clarke-Bradbury International Science Fiction Competition.”

The Space Show interview with Dr. Edwards is now online

Yesterday, Dr. David Livingston of The Space Show interviewed Dr. Bradley Edwards and Ms. Carla Sabotta.

From the web summary:

“Dr. Brad Edwards and Carla Sabotta were the guests for this Space Show program focusing on the space elevator. Please be advised that due to extremely wet weather in the Seattle area and the Bay Area, plus the use of cell phones, there is unavoidable phone line noise on this program. We started the program with Dr. Edwards providing us with an update on the climber games that were held in Salt Lake City. Brad explained the various teams, the technology being used, what happened to the contestants, and more. One contestant actually used carbon nanotubes for their climber but as you will hear, they did not do well. Our conversation then took us to the Luxembourg Workshop. As you hear Dr. Edwards update us on this event, you will get a sense of the draw for space elevator on an international level. Later in the program in response to a question about the work other countries are doing on the space elevator, you will hear about Japan and their interest in the elevator. Listeners asked Dr. Edwards and Carla about a central place for “official”-like news about the space elevator as well as reliable PR to keep interested people informed and to reach the general public. Carla spoke about this as did Brad. It is being considered by those involved with developing the space elevator. In the meantime, the website suggested for reliable information was…”

As expected, this interview was quite interesting.  You can listen to it here.

Dr. Brad Edwards returns to the Space Show

Tomorrow, December 4th, 2007 at 7:00pm (Pacific Time), Dr. Brad Edwards will be interviewed on The Space Show by it’s host, Dr. David Livingston.

The program info states that he (and the other guest, Carla Sabotta) will “discuss space elevator climber technology, the Luxembourg Conference Workshop, and the space elevator.”

Dr. Edwards is always a treat to listen to and, as he attended (and presented at) the recent Luxembourg Conference Workshop and I was unable to attend, I have an extra reason to listen to this show.

Please tune in – I’m sure it will be worth your while.

Marc Boucher appears on The Space Show

Almost everyone who is interested in Space Elevators and is at all Internet-savvy knows the website The Space Elevator Reference.  This site is the original Space Elevator site and remains a “must-visit” for anyone who is interested in the subject.

Marc Boucher is the author of this site (as well as others, most notably, IMHO, – a site I’ve written about several times before – if you’re not already signed up for their daily alerts/news, you should be).  One of the many good things which happened to me at the recent Space Elevator Games was the opportunity to meet and work with Marc.  He and I had corresponded a bit over the past year, but I’d never met him before this year’s Games.

Marc was the person responsible for the webcams at this year’s Games (thank you Marc) as well as a number of notable photos posted on the Space Elevator Reference website.  If you haven’t visited this site and seen Marc’s coverage of the games, you’re missing a treat.

He was also interviewed yesterday (the 30th) by Dr. David Livingston on the Space Show.  Dr. Livingston does a very thorough job on biographies – here is an excerpt from Marc’s bio…

“Marc Boucher is an entrepreneur, technologist, explorer and bon vivant. He came into his own when spurred on by his brother, he decided to start his first business in 1991 and hasn’t looked back since. Boucher is the founder of aTerra Technologies, co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive, co-founder of the Mars Institute and has ideas about starting other new ventures. aTerra Technologies focuses on Internet technologies, in particular data gathering and aggregation, vertical search, web development and is best known for developing original content properties and web crawlers…In June of 2000 SpaceRef announced it had licensed SpaceRef content to the Discovery Channel. Today SpaceRef is one of the leading online space news sites comprising 14 web sites in its network and growing. SpaceRef has also begun to modestly sponsor research by first donating the Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse to the Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) in 2002. In addition SpaceRef has been managing webcams for the HMP since the summer of 2000. Boucher himself has had the pleasure to participate in the HMP as an Exploration Research Co-Investigator for five field seasons and has been to the high-Arctic base three times, once in the summer of 2000, then 2002 and in 2005. The Mars Institute is a non-profit research institute co-founded by Boucher in the fall of 2002 at the World Space Congress in Houston.”

His interview is quite interesting and is well worth listening to.  It can be found here.

It was very nice to meet you and work with you Marc – here’s hoping that we’ll be working events together in the future.  And, thank you so much for your photo showing proof positive that aliens were monitoring the Games…

Interview with KC Space Pirates Brian Turner now online

As I wrote a few days ago, Brian Turner, the Captain and Fearless Leader of the Kansas City Space Pirates, was going to be interviewed on Zookers Radio.

This interview is now online and can be accessed here.  The actual interview runs from about 13:15 to 47:06 of the entire broadcast so you can just skip to that point if you want.

The most interesting quote from Brian (IMHO) was in regards to how fragile the Solar cells they are working with are: “The Solar Cells we’re using are more fragile than a saltine cracker.”  Perhaps he used that analogy because of their motif; they ARE the Kansas City Space Pirates and Brian IS the captain and ALL Pirate Captains have a Parrot on their shoulder and everyone associates the phrase “Polly want a cracker?” with Pirates… 🙂

It’s a pretty thorough interview and Brian acquits himself well…

Associates and competitors…

“If the Space Elevator is our best option [for an alternative way to space], it’s going to be a long, long road” – so says Dr. David Livingston in this very interesting interview from July of 2006 with Dr. Jordin Kare, the same Dr. Kare who is part of LaserMotive, one of the entrants into this year’s Space Elevator Games.

In this interview, Dr. Kare’s describes using Laser propulsion for getting payloads into orbit differently than using lasers to power a Space Elevator.  Dr. Kare touts the capabilities of “Laser Launch”, using a ground-based laser to power a spacecraft by heating up a propellant it carries rather than the Space Elevator concept whereby a ground-based laser, again aimed at the space craft (the climber) would power a photovoltaic array, generating electricity for the Climber to use.

In this interview, Dr. Livingston asks Dr. Kare for his opinion of the Space Elevator.  Dr. Kare replies that he considers people working on the Space Elevator to be “associates and competitors”…

Competitors indeed.  Dr. Kare also stated in the interview that the highest any device had been sent using the “Laser Launch” approach was a couple of hundred feet.  So, perhaps he and the LaserMotive team will beat this in the competition this year.  At the Games, I’ll be sure to seek out Dr. Kare and ask him his opinion of the Space Elevator now and to see what the status of “Laser Launch” is at this time…

In the show notes, Dr. Livingston also states: “Certainly [Laser Launch] can be brought on line faster and cheaper than the space elevator.”  We shall see…

While poking around the ‘net, I came across this article, describing using the concept of Laser Launch to dispose of nuclear wastes, a potential use of the Space Elevator, too…

More from Arthur C. Clarke…

It is no mystery why this blog has had several references / postings to Arthur C. Clarke.  In addition to being an outstanding sci-fi writer and futurist, he is also the guy who, more than anyone else, has popularized the concept of a Space Elevator.

In his latest missive (available here), he talks about many things, including his pleasure at the gradual acceptance of the idea of a Space Elevator and his three wishes:

1. A method to generate limitless quantities of clean energy.

2. Affordable and reliable means of space transport.

3. Eliminating the design faults in the human body

I can only agree.  Sir Clarke turns 90 this year, on December 16th.  I hope there is some sort of celebration planned for this.

Read the article – it’s quite enjoyable…

Kansas City Space Pirates’ Brian Turner to be interviewed tomorrow

I received this email from Eric Rager of Zookers Radio:

“Join the Zookers Radio Program on Saturday, October 6th at 7:00 pm central time for an interview with Brian Turner of the Kansas City Space Pirates.  Brian and his team are competing in the Spaceward Games 2007 with their space elevator design.

Show link:

This show is hosted by “Rob and Eric, the Greek Gods of Internet Radio”.  By Zeus that’s a great tagline!!

They have their other shows archived, so I’m sure this one will be too – if you miss the live broadcast, you can catch-up with it later.  I’ll post the link when it becomes available.

Interview with Spaceward’s Ben Shelef

Ben was interviewed by Paul Plack from Aero-News a couple of weeks ago.  It’s a fine interview and will give the listener an overview of what is going to happen at the upcoming Games, a history of how we got here and a bit about the Spaceward Foundation itself.

The interview is 18 minutes long and can be found here.

(The picture is of Ben and is from the 2006 competition – Ben was holding an all-hands meeting for the teams and was going over logistics and ground-rules.  I’m sure we’ll have several such meetings this year, too.  Click on the picture for a larger version.)

Dr. Bryan Laubscher and Eric Westling appear on the Space Show

Space Elevator afficianados will instantly know who both Dr. Laubscher and Eric Westling are.  For those of you who don’t, let me quote a (very) abbreviated bit from their resumés as posted on the Space Show website:

“Bryan E. Laubscher received his Ph.D. in physics in 1994 from the University of New Mexico with a concentration in astrophysics. Bryan has just returned to Los Alamos National Laboratory from a year-long Entrepreneurial Leave to Seattle. There he started a company to develop the strongest materials ever created. These materials are based upon carbon nanotubes…”.  Bryan is also heavily involved in the Space Elevator Games, taking the role of Safety officer for this year’s games.

“Eric Westling is a science writer, pundit on science, technology, and economics. He is the co-author of “The Space Elevator” with Dr. Brad Edwards . In addition, Mr. Westling is retired and is a former Army officer and helicopter pilot, civilian Airline Transport Pilot (ATP), former consultant to many small companies regarding engineering, computer, and business troubleshooting.”

To be able to listen to one or the other expound on the Space Elevator and the reasons we should build one is a treat.  To be able to listen to both of them on the same show is something special.  Both of these gentlemen appeared on Tuesday’s edition of The Space Show.  From the show summary:

“Dr. Bryan Laubscher and Eric Westling were the guests for this Space Show program. We began our discussion with a review of the rocket equation and both Eric and Bryan took us through the chemistry and physics of rockets, mass ratios, etc. With extensive questioning by listeners as well as myself, both guests explained why chemical rocket propulsion breakthroughs were unlikely. I urge listeners to pay attention to this discussion. If you disagree, send our guests a note and explain why they are not correct. We next turned out attention to the science, engineering, financing, and politics behind developing the space elevator. We went through ribbon development, propulsion development, political decision making for basic R&D funding, what’s in it for a private sector profit motivated company and much more. This program is a comprehensive discussion of all aspects of the space elevator. Toward the end of the program, listeners asked about other nations being able to develop the space elevator, primarily India and China. You will want to hear what both Bryan and Eric have to say about this and about our technology and science compared to the same in other countries. They also explained what it means politically and economically for another nation to control the space elevator technology. As a result of another listener question, we discussed black budget financing and R&D as a possibility for the space elevator – right now. Bryan answered the question from his perspective as a Los Alamos scientist.”

You can listen to the interview by visiting The Space Show website or else clicking here.

Highly, highly recommended…

Ben Shelef appears on The Space Show

On Sunday, Ben Shelef, CEO of The Spaceward Foundation, was interviewed by The Space Show’s Dr. David Livingston.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Ben or Spaceward, this is the organization that puts on the Space Elevator Games each year and will be doing so again in October of this year.  From The Space Show website:

Ben Shelef, co-founder of Spaceward Foundation, was the guest for this show. Spaceward is sponsoring the 2007 climber and space elevator games in Salt Lake City this year, Oct. 19-21, 2007. Check it out at the Spaceward Foundation website. Not only did Ben tell us about the climber contest and also the tether contest, he noted that for winners there is a million dollars to give away courtesy our favorite NASA! Its $500K for the winner of each contest but Ben explains this and the rules so read up on it, plus the other events to be held at this competition. After discussing the coming Salt Lake City competition, the facilities, hotel, etc, Ben got lots of good space elevator questions. We talked about a lunar elevator and an elevator for Mars. We even discussed the Martian moons and an elevator. You will not want to miss this discussion as its most informative. As for the competition, there are more than 20 teams from the US, Canada and Japan. Listen to how Ben describes their technology. Its certainly going to be exciting this year. If you have questions for Ben Shelef about the upcoming Salt Lake City competition, the space elevator, the Spaceward Foundation, please email him at Ben [AT] or as always, you can forward your comments and questions to him through me at drspace [AT] And check the Spaceward website for more information and announcements about the coming games and the results.

It’s a long an interesting interview and highly recommended for anyone who wants to know more about The Space Elevator Games, possible uses of a Space Elevator and other interesting topics.  Visit The Space Show website or click here to listen to the interview (note that it’s in .mp3 format and will take some time to download before you’ll begin to hear it).

(Older) interview with Brad Edwards

I’ve seen this video before and can swear that I had posted it prior to now, but I’ll be darned if I can find it.  Either I never got around to posting it or have misfiled under the wrong category.

In any event, here it is – an AP story about the Space Elevator.  I don’t know the date, but it was some time ago – it still has Dr. Edwards associated with ISR…[youtube][/youtube]

RussiaToday looks at Space Elevators

The first half of this 25 minute long YouTube video (originally from RussiaToday) is devoted to nanotechnology and Russia’s move into this field of research.  Just after the video’s 10 minute mark, the narrator talks about how carbon nanotubes might be used to build an earth-based Space Elevator.  He theorizes that the climbers might be powered via Solar Energy (rather than ground-based lasers) or that the cable itself might be able to conduct power for the climbers.


“Mars is really begging for a Space Elevator”

So says Rob Manning of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in this fascinating interview in Universe Today conducted by Nancy Atkinson.

In this interview, Mr. Manning discusses how difficult it is to actually land anything on Mars that is bigger than the Rovers already sent there.  This is due to both the atmosphere being too thin to be used for aerobraking as we know it today.

“’Mars is really begging for a space elevator,’ said Manning. ‘I think it has great potential. That would solve a lot of problems, and Mars would be an excellent platform to try it.’ But Manning admitted that the technology needed to suspend a space elevator has not yet been invented. The issues with space elevator technology may be vast, even compared with the challenges of landing.”

A really interesting interview – highly recommended.

KC Space Pirates appear on Walt Bodine Show

On June 11th, KC Space Pirates captain Brian Turner and team member Frank Smith were interviewed on a one-hour long show by Kansas City broadcaster Walt Bodine.  Walt’s website is here and you can listen to the interview here.

In the interview, Brian mentioned that he and his team was also going to be featured in the July 1st edition of the NY Times, so I’m looking forward to that also.

“The concept is not of interest to NASA”

This quote is taken from Dr. Brad Edward’s PowerPoint presentation posted on the Rutgers Symposium on Lunar Settlements website.  This presentation, titled “A Space Elevator for the Moon”, proposed that two, earth-based Space Elevators be built to supply the materials needed to do Lunar exploration in a robust way.  It’s quite persuasive, with the only caveat being the technology: “Immature but quickly developing”.  The advantages are clear; greatly reduced launch costs and greatly reduced launch risk.

You can find the PowerPoint presentation here and the abstract of his speech here (Bob Munck alert – it’s a pdf file.  Dr. Edwards abstract is on page 62).

Hopefully all is not bleak, though.  A new administration will be elected next year and, while I have no reason to believe that they would encourage NASA to be more innovative, they could hardly make it worse…

Demo of Archimedes Death Ray (aka KC Space Pirates mirrors) moved…

As I had blogged about earlier, Brian Turner and the Kansas City Space Pirates are providing a demonstration of their system for interested observers.  I had noted that the location might be changed and, indeed, it has.  From Brian;

We had to change the location of the demo this weekend. It is no longer at  the polo club location.
We are now at Tri-Lateral Sales (TLS for short).  This is the back yard of a warehouse located in the river bottoms south of Worlds-of-Fun. This is our usual test field.

The address is
3801 NE Kimball Dr.
KCMO 64152
My cell

The times remain the same
Fri Noon to 3:30
Sat Noon to 3:30
Myself and some of my teammates will be there earlier. We will be out back.

This location is a little odd in that everyone needs to sign a hold harmless agreement as part of the owners giving us permission to demo there. Find me when you get there to sign in.  The business there will be in operation Friday so try not to block the trucks and park a bit away from the front door.  You might want to bring a lawn chair.


Jerome Pearson interview on the Space Elevator

Kevin Coglin (I hope I’m spelling his name right) has posted several videos on YouTube, interviewing various participants and presenters at the currently ongoing symposium on Lunar Settlements at Rutgers University.  The one he’s posted which is of most interest to Space Elevator fans is this one (below) with Jerome Pearson.  I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting or even listening to Mr. Pearson, so this YouTube video was a real treat.  Thanks, Kevin…
I had posted about this symposium earlier here.  Also at this symposium, Dr. Brad Edwards is scheduled to present his proposal on using earth-based Space Elevators to satisfy NASA’s lunar settlement requirements.  I hope I get a chance to post on his presentation soon…

On yesterday’s Space Show, Dr. David Livingston interviewed Liftport’s President & CEO Michael Laine.  Michael described, in painful detail, how he and LiftPort arrived at their current situation.  There were a number of great quotes from Michael during this show, among them being;

“I’d rather build an elevator to space than cure cancer.”

“I’d rather build an elevator to space than an office building.”

And my favorite; “We can make a fair amount of money off the tethered towers.”  The title of this web posting was derived from that quote.  Michael was quite clear; LiftPort is now going to concentrate on generating revenue from their Tethered tower product/technology.  If they can’t make this work, then they are going to close the doors of LiftPort….

They have a new website devoted to this new focus,

I urge all of those interested in the concept of the Space Elevator to listen to this interview.

CBS Sunday Morning Space Elevator segment postponed

As those of you who got up early to try and watch the CBS Sunday Morning Space Elevator segment I blogged about earlier know, or those who TIVO’d it and watched it later know, this segment did not air.

I emailed the reporter that had contacted me for some material on this story.  This is her reply;

“…space elevators got held at the last minute because of time problems…it was meant to be middle part of Bill Geist trilogy about the future…Now I’m told it will air in August, although I’m thinking we may cover the [2007] Competition and do a bigger piece including that.”

So, that’s that – hopefully we’ll see something from them in the future…

LiftPort’s Joe Julian interviewed

The LiftPort Blog pointed me to an interview that Joe Julian (from Liftport) recently gave on the Bob Rivers show.  The website for the show is here and a direct link to the interview is here.  It appears to be just cut off after about 7 minutes, but, other than the hosts going off-subject into some Lindsay Lohan diet jokes (gotta’ keep all of the audience interested, I guess) along the way, I thought that Joe handled it pretty well.

Dave Barry comments on the Space Elevator

Search engines are weird sometimes; yesterday they found this Howard Lovy June 27, 2004 blog entry on Space Elevators.  It’s an interesting blog entry in and of itself and it links to a video I hadn’t seen before, an interview with Brad Edwards.

But the real prize in this blog entry was its mention of a Dave Barry column on the Space Elevator.  The link to the column doesn’t work anymore, but I hunted around and found an archived copy of it – you can view it here.  It’s typical Dave Barry stuff – pretty funny…

Detailed Conference Program for SESI2007 released

The final, detailed, program for the upcoming SESI2007 Conference has just been released.  This schedule includes the papers that are going to be presented at the conference.  The original Word Document can be found here and an .htm version can be found here.

Astute viewers will note that yours truly will be giving a presentation on Monday afternoon at 5:10pm.

I will discuss this more in some upcoming posts but, for now, just wanted to get it out there for people to see.

If you haven’t registered to attend, it’s still not too late to do so by visiting the SESI Site.  Only 9 more days…

2006 Space Elevator Games Video posted

Over on this Blog’s sidebar, in the Images & Animation section, I’ve posted a video summary of the 2006 Space Elevator Games.  It’s the best one I’ve found and I’ve had hopes that it’s producers would put it up on their website, in archives or something.  Alas, it has not happened and they have refused to respond to repeated emails on my part.

So this evening I traversed some of the interesting challenges in converting DVD-Video to Flash with the result that you can see here or by clicking on the link in the sidebar.

Yes I know it’s not well integrated into the site, no background or common theme, etc.  Maybe later, if/when I decide to tackle that challenge I’ll make it look better.  For now, I’m just happy it’s there.

Please check it out – it’s worth a look (thanks, Brian)…

Planetary Society interview with Ben Shelef

One of the organizations I belong to is The Planetary Society.  I support them because they actually DO stuff, not just sit there and talk about it.  They also have great podcasts.  Each week their host, Mat Kaplan, does a truly fine job in interviewing his guests.

I recently became a first-time entrant to their weekly Trivia contests.  Mat took the time to personally reply to me and I found out that he was well aware of the concept of the Space Elevator.  He had interviewed Ben Shelef in 2005, before the first Annual Space Elevator games occurred.  That interview can be found here and is well worth your time to listen to.  It really is well done and it gives you a window into the how and why that the Space Elevator Games exist.

This is also notice to my readers that if future Trivia contests have a subject that can, at all, be related to a Space Elevator, I’m going to post it on this blog and will urge my readers to respond to it.  Several weeks ago, their Trivia Question was “What is the altitude of Geosynchronous orbit?” – something that all Space Elevator afficianados should know by heart.  I somehow missed this show and by the time I heard it, it was too late.  It won’t happen again…

(Note: You can click on the Planetary Society picture of a Solar Sail and see a larger version – be warned – it’s a 5MB file)

Register now for the 2007 Space Exploration Conference

Phil Richter, the Administrative Chair for the Space Engineering and Science Institute, was Dr. David Livingston’s guest on the Space Show this past Tuesday.  The podcast for the show is available here.

Phil discussed the upcoming SESI2007 Conference with Dr. Livingston and various call-in guests.

Of special note: discounted Hotel rates are available only until the end of the month for the 2007 Space Exploration Conference to be held in Albuquerque, NM from March 25th through the 28th.  The current rates ($70/night I think) for this hotel really are cheap, but they’re only available through February 28th.  If you haven’t booked your room yet, now is the time to do so.

Reminder: SESI’s Phil Richter to appear on The Space Show tomorrow

As I blogged about earlier, the Administrative Chair of SESI, Phil Richter, will appear on The Space Show tomorrow, Tuesday, February 20th, from 7:00pm to 8:30pm Pacific Time.  Tune into The Space Show to hear it live or else catch the podcast later.

From The Space Show’s announcements;

“We welcome Phil Richter to the program to discuss Space Exploration 2007, the space elevator conference and much more. Mr. Richter is a structural engineer with expertise in lunar structures.”

SESI’s Phil Richter to appear on The Space Show

Phil Richter, the Administrative Chair of the Space Engineering and Science Institute (SESI), will appear on Dr. David Livingston’s The Space Show on Tuesday, February 20th.  The show’s broadcast time has not yet been posted, but the Tuesday shows are normally aired from 7:00pm to 8:30pm Pacific Time.

SESI is hosting this year’s Second International Conference and Exposition on Science, Engineering and Habitation in Space and the Second Biennial Space Elevator Workshop (SESI2007), in Albuquerque, New Mexico, from March 25th through the 28th.

Some weeks ago, Bryan Laubscher appeared on The Space Show and discussed some of the events at this conference.  Since then, SESI has released its Program Highlights and Schedule.  Mr. Richter and Dr. Livingston are sure to discuss this and other ongoing developments for this conference.

You can tune in to the show here, or, if you can’t catch the broadcast, all of The Space Shows are available afterwards via podcast.

Carbon Nanotube-based tether may debut at 2007 Space Elevator Games

I’ve started email conversations with some of the teams registered to participate in the 2007 Elevator Games.  It’s much too early, of course, to know exactly what everyone is going to be doing, but I received this interesting bit of information from Michael Remington of Team Astroaraneae, an entrant into this years tether competition.

For those of you who don’t know, Team Astroaraneae produced the strongest tether in last year’s competition, though not strong enough to win the prize.  I asked Michael if they were planning on using carbon nanotubes in this year’s entry and this was his reply;

We are glad to be back competing as the reigning champion of the Tether Competition.  With an increase of the House Tether’s expected load carrying capacity jumping, from 1,300lbs in 2005 to greater than 1,660lbs in 2006, we have no other choice but to compete with a tether composed with nanotubes…if we intend to win the Grand Prize.  I will leave it up to you to speculate as to what we truly intend to do. 🙂


Do keep in mind one thing though: anyone can compete with a tether made of nanotubes.  All you need is $100 of nanotubes and some glue.  The trick is to make one that is stronger than the state of the art, and no one in the world has displayed this capability…yet.

So, we’ll have to wait and see.  As I assume they’re interested in winning the Grand prize ($500K this year – that’s real folding money…), I would take his words to mean that they WILL introduce a carbon-nanotube tether this year (of what percentage nanotubes and how constructed, I haven’t a clue).  But a winning tether, composed of carbon-nanotubes, would give a real kick to Space Elevator development…

NASA’s not interested in Space Elevators…

On the Sunday, February 11th edition of The Space Show, Ken Davidian of NASA was interviewed.  Ken is the man behind the seven Centennial Challenges currently being sponsored by NASA.  The Beam Power and Tether competitions at the Space Elevator Games comprise two of these seven Centennial Challenges.

The interview was really enjoyable to listen to; Ken is obviously committed and passionate about Centennial Challenges.  He gave us a history of how they came about, how they are being funded (or not), why they are set up the way they are and what NASA is looking to get out of them.

I was surprised to learn that NASA is NOT interested in the Beam Power Competition to power a Space Elevator, nor are they interested in the Tether competition to build a Space Elevator.  Ken put it quite bluntly: “NASA’s not interested in Space Elevators…”, at least not as far as the Centennial Challenges are concerned.  NASA is looking at the results / winners / new technologies developed out of the Beam Power competition for Lunar exploration purposes and they are looking at the Tether competition for fundamental materials research.  However, by partnering with the Spaceward Foundation for these two challenges, NASA is getting what it wants while helping us Space Elevator believers further our goal.

The other really interesting thing he said was that if a Space Elevator is ever built, then NASA would want to be a “good customer” (along with many others) for it.

Ken also described, in some detail, how the funding for these Centennial Challenges has happened (and not) and touched on many other subjects.

A fascinating interview, well worth your time (it’s an hour and half long, but it goes by quickly).

NASA’s Ken Davidian to appear on The Space Show

Ken Davidian, the man behind NASA’s Centennial Challenges (including the Space Elevator Games) is scheduled to appear on The Space Show this coming Sunday, February 11th, from 12:00 noon to 1:30pm (Pacific Time).

If you have questions about any aspect of NASA’s support of the Space Elevator Games, and the Centennial Challenges in general, please listen to this show and phone or email in your questions.  Dr. David Livingston, who hosts The Space Show, does a fine job in both interviewing his guests and in making sure that all listener questions are addressed.

A mostly unknown story about Ken; as many of you know, I was the “Official Blogger” for the 2006 Space Elevator games.  I was not there for the first couple of days of trial runs, but Ken was.  He was the one who took the videos and pictures I posted on this blog until I arrived in Las Cruces the day before the competition started.  He and I had to figure out the best way of downloading/uploading files and commentary (and quickly learned to love YouTube for videos).  Ken is gracious and a pleasure to work with and I look forward to hearing him speak this Sunday.

Tune in please, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.


(For a larger picture of Ken, click on the thumbnail) 

Discovery Channel 2057 show airs

Well, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this show, but I thought it would be something along the lines of the Science Channel show – a “Space Elevator primer” as it were.

Having said that, I’m glad this was different; there was enough there about the Space Elevator to introduce the concept to the uninitiated, but not so much as to “bore the choir…”

The idea of a lab located on the Space Elevator, 250 miles above the earth, is certainly doable (once you have a Space Elevator, of course) and, one can see that it would be a great place to actually test out Solar arrays (IMHO, the “killer ap”, near-term, for a Space Elevator).  And, a joint lab between the Americans and the Chinese is not out of the question.

(sarcasm on) Nice to see the stereotypes though; the “crafty and capitalistic Americans” suggest buying the silence of the Chinese scientist while the leaders of the evil “red menace” (or “yellow peril” – pick your poison) kidnap the Chinese scientist’s wife to ensure his cooperation.  But in the end, the American side comes up with the winning plan and the scientific spirit of cooperation between the American and Chinese scientist in the lab triumphed over all – I was almost in tears… (sarcasm off)

Seriously, I thought the show was fun, but they missed an important point.  They talked about how a Space Elevator-based solar lab would be able to develop / test new solar power technology, but said not a word about how, once the solar arrays were built, they would be placed in orbit.  You need a Space Elevator to do that, rockets would just not be practical.

On the optimistic side, the show did posit that a Space Elevator would be in place by 2057.  I’m hoping for a lot sooner than that.   The most interesting comment in the entire show (IMHO) was the spoken assumption that the United States and China would be the two preeminent powers in 2057.  I wouldn’t count out either the Russians or the Indians.  Russia is a country tremendously rich in natural resources and has a long history of technological prowess.  If they can ever get their act together, they will be a formidable competitor.  I’d also be leery of betting against India – there’s something about this country that inspires respect.  They’re not as rich in natural resources as Russia is, but will soon be the world’s most populous nation.  If you believe (like I do) that educated people are an asset, then you have to say that their future is bright.

This show will re-air on Saturday, February 3rd at 04:00pm eastern/pacific (note that the time may be am – I think they made a mistake on their website).  In any event, please, as they say, check your local listings.