I’ve gotten a bit behind on all Space-Elevator related news, so I’ll combine a few items in this post;
There have been several news reports recently (a few of them are here, here, and here) about the unmanned ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-1. This mission is designed, among other tasks, to more thoroughly map the moon. A dozen instruments are on board; half from ISRO and half from other countries. What does this have to do with a Space Elevator? It’s just another step in the maturation of the Indian Space Program and India, as I have written before (here and here) is a prime candidate to actually ‘do it’ when it comes to building a Space Elevator (IMHO, of course)…
The Speculist is running a competition to, well, let them tell you: “As we announced on the most recent edition of FastForward Radio, we will be awarding the presidential candidate who outlines the most speculicious program — that is, the plan with the most Speculist appeal — with a FastForward Radio coffee mug…And a reminder to both Senator Obama and Senator McCain — if either happen to be reading this — any use by either of you of the phrase “space elevator” ought to just about clinch this thing. So don’t be shy.”
I have already commented on the incredible amount of press generated by the Times Online story saying that the Japanese have now begun work on building a Space Elevator (oh, if it were only true). However, one blog post about this (from The Rogues Gallery) is worth commenting on. The author states that whoever builds the first space elevator “owns space – game over.” I must disagree. Let’s assume that my prediction of a Dubai-India Joint Venture comes true and they go out and build the first one. Does this mean that the US (or the Russians) couldn’t go out and build one themselves? They certainly could. It would be expensive (I don’t know if Dubai-India would sell space on their Elevator for a competitor), but we could certainly do it. And if we Americans built one first? The Russians (or Chinese or whoever) could build one for national security concerns. The cost of building one of these ($10 Billion?) is a lot of money, but there are several entities with this kind of resources. So, building one of these gives you a leg up, that’s for sure – but ‘game over’? I don’t think so…
Finally (for today, anyway), the TV Tropes Wiki has a list of places where the Space Elevator has appeared in fiction. There are several I’ve not heard of (my favorite is “Bubblegum Crisis”) and, will give me something else to look at in my ‘spare’ time…
More bits ‘n pieces tomorrow…
(Knight Sabers picture from here – click on it for a larger version)
Bah, who cares about the presidential candidate, nobody will blink an eye of they mention a Space Elevator. Better yet, the new Star Trek movie should be displaying a Space Elevator (or several) in a believable manner.
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Re “Owns Space – Game Over”
The thing with elevators is that
[a] They pay big once they’re up (your margin is insane when compared with any other existing form of space access, for which there is a healthy market)
[b] The first one is very expensive to build and takes several years.
[c] The second one you build on earth for a fraction of the cost, spool it up and launch into space in a fraction of the time.
[d] You don’t build one. You build many.
If an Indo-Dubai alliance got it there ahead of the US by two years, by the time the US had finished their one elevator, the I-D alliance would have already finished deploying fifteen elevators, sold off two to recuperate the costs. The US at this point is competing with whoever bought the other two. Ten years down the road, the US has 100, I-D has 10,000.
Whoever puts one up first gets to troll the bridge to space forever. As long as he keeps using his capacity to deploy more capacity, catching up is near-impossible. It becomes an impossible economic war of attrition for whoever is catching up.