On the plane ride over to Luxembourg (I am attending and presenting at the EuroSpaceward Conference this coming weekend), I read Michel van Pelt’s new book; Space Tethers and Space Elevators. Michel had kindly sent me a copy some months ago, and I had been saving reading it for this trip. I can’t sleep on airplanes and I knew I would have several uninterrupted hours that I could devote to this much-anticipated treat.
And what a treat it turned out to be. In this book, Michel explains what the advantages of tethers in space are and the benefits they can provide, including Space debris mitigation and tether propulsion. He gives the history and results of previous tether experiments in space, some of which I was unaware of. He talks about the rockets and their alternatives, most especially the Space Elevator:
The space elevator concept has the potential to cause a revolution in human history. We have been living at the bottom of a gravity well up until now, and we only recently acquired the technology to climb out once in a while at high cost. A space elevator would provide an easy, regular, and sustainable way out of that well, allowing many people to clamber up and explore, develop, and colonize space ever further. As will be shown in the next chapters, tether technology is a possible solution for many of the most stringent spaceflight constraints.
Michel briefly but thoroughly discusses the history of how the idea of a Space Elevator came about and how it has gradually permeated popular culture – everything from Arthur C. Clarke’s magnificent book, The Fountains of Paradise to showing up on Star Trek and even the Microsoft Xbox game Halo 3.
Other topics of discussion include problems that will need addressing in the building and operation of a Space Elevator, the current ‘state of affairs’ in Space Elevator development (including a discussion of the Space Elevator Games) and the cost to build one.
When discussing Space Elevators, much of his information is drawn from the Edwards / Westling book The Space Elevator: A Revolutionary Earth-to-Space Transportation System but Michel adds updates and new material to this to bring everyone up-to-date.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and learned much from it. It will be very valuable to anyone who wants to learn about alternatives to using rockets to get into space or space tethers and/or space elevators in general. Michel van Pelt’s book is a very valuable addition to the ever-growing body of literature on this subject.
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How many billions of dollars would it cost to assemble an allotropic geosynchronous elevator spanning hundreds of miles above the earth’s surface? Personally, combustive means, like rockets, would get astronauts into outer space at a significantly faster ride. All-in-all, the space tether idea seems to have evolved from a childishly radical idea, to a purely modern scientific breakthrough.