This past Friday, Kate Knibbs over at Gizmodo posted a story about “The Quest to build an elevator to space”.
Kate covers most of the basics but one thought she posted kind of leaves me scratching my head. “Wayward flocks of geese…could smash into it“. I’m not sure why anyone would be concerned about this. A tether strong enough to support a space elevator would not be concerned with a goose flying into it. A plane, yes, a goose, no. Think about a goose flying into a half or three-quarter inch steel cable. The goose would be killed or severely injured. A carbon nanotube tether (or whatever is used) will be much, MUCH stronger than a steel cable and won’t be concerned with bird strikes.
Note that this is not the same as bird strikes on commercial or military airplanes. First of all, the force is much greater when a goose hits a plane in flight – the plane is flying several hundred miles per hour. And second, the materials used to build a plane are not anywhere near as strong as what a space elevator tether would need to be.
Space debris IS an issue; this stuff is traveling thousands of miles per hour and will thus have a lot of energy, enough to damage or even sever the tether (if it is not designed correctly). Ensuring that space elevator can survive space debris hits (because it WILL get hit) will be one of the “must” design criteria (the International Space Elevator Consortium did an in-depth study on this topic and published a report on it).
Finally, I have to mention one of the comments on the story – I found it very amusing. People who regularly read this blog know that I am no fan of space-elevator disaster scenarios, but this is just too good to ignore.
Whoever came up with this, I salute you!