That’s the implication of this article, published today in the TimesOnline (and linked to from the DrudgeReport – guaranteeing a HUGE audience). I was excited when I read the headlines (“Japan hopes to turn sci-fi into reality with elevator to the stars“), but the article mentioned no new breakthroughs in this effort.
Having said that, the likelihood of the Japanese building the world’s first Space Elevator certainly cannot be discounted. They are a technologically sophisticated and financially able people. It is not at all beyond the realm of possibility that the Japanese could decide to wean themselves from the oil economy by launching a number of Solar Power Satellites (SPS) for their own use and the only way that they (or anyone) is going to be able to launch a significant amount of payload (i.e. SPS) into orbit is with a Space Elevator.
We’re all waiting for the breakthrough in carbon nanotubes and the accelerating pace of research into this field means, IMHO, that this is not far away at all; I think we will see ‘the breakthrough’ before this decade is out. And, when that happens, the idea of a Space Elevator could move very quickly from an academic exercise to a new ‘space race’…
The article mentions the upcoming Space Elevator conference being held in Japan on November 15th and 16th. I’m told that the English language progam for this conference will be available soon. I’m going to be attending this conference and very much look forward to going.
The Japanese also had a large presence at the recent Space Elevator conference held at the Microsoft Conference center (I blogged about it here). The picture, above, is of the attendees from Japan at this conference (click on it for a larger version).
The Japanese Space Elevator Association also has an extensive website (all in Japanese) which can be found here.