Emerging Asia

During the recently completed SESI2007 conference, I gave a presentation on who, IMHO, would build the first earth-based Space Elevator.  I identified several likely candidates and then narrowed it down to two possibilities; a consortium of US businesses which had struck a deal with the US Government or a Joint Venture between the governments of Dubai (part of the UAE) and India.  Without going through the whole presentation, my reasons for this conclusion were this; while the Space Elevator is a source of enormous potential wealth, no government (Dubai/India excepted) would take the risk to build it.  Rather, I had identified American business entrepeneurs as people who might well take this risk, but also thought the same about the government of Dubai.  This government has much in common with corporations, being flexible, adaptable and able to make decisions without resorting to a myriad of committees.  With them having the vision to drive the project (and the finances to pay for it), they need a partner.  India struck me as the right one; they are an emerging country, possessing an increasingly well-trained and technological-savvy work force.  They are a nuclear power and have a real military and a real space program.  They also have direct sea-lane access to two of the six potential Earth Port sites, including a favored one off the west coast of Australia.  But I had one more reason for picking them, their long-standing rivalry with China.  I think India would do much to leapfrog China and participating in the building a Space Elevator would be a perfect project for them.

I bring this all up now because of this blog posting from Centauri Dreams.  Scientist and Sci-Fi author Gregory Benford recently took a trip to the Asian subcontinent and wrote an absolutely fascinating account of his journey.  It has several connections to the Space Elevator (though none are explicitly mentioned).  First, he meets with Arthur C. Clarke, the person who is most responsible for the popularization of the idea.  Second, he describes India as an awakening giant and has this to say about their rivalry with China;

“Similarly, the Indian space program sees itself as a rival to China, not to the US or Europe. It will be amusing if audacious moves in space come from Asia as a regional competition, just as the US-USSR contest drove the first decades.”

This strikes me as absolutely accurate, though not very amusing.  And, as an aside (and something I forgot to mention in my presentation), India will be hosting this years International Astronautical Congress (for the second time), a convention that, in the past, has had a Space Elevator theme as one of its tracks.

Finally, as I blogged about many months ago, I attended a Skeptics conference last year, one where this same Gregory Benford was a speaker.  In a Q&A session after his presentation (and in a private conversation after that), he and I talked about a Space Elevator.

Just an interesting coincidence perhaps…

Read the blog entry; it truly is fascinating.  And remember what I predict about Dubai (UAE) and India – you heard it here first.

7 thoughts on “Emerging Asia

  1. parmanu

    Being a citizen of India and enthusiastic about space activities,
    I have my own doubts about India’s role in building a space elevator.

    Though the arguments you have presented are quite persuasive, I still imagine India more to be one among the countries who will not take a “risk” to build SE.

    Though ISRO has performed really well in last few decades, it generally uses technology already tried and tested by USA and Russia and probably would wait till first SE is succesfully built and used before being part of it.

    India would surlely like to surpass China in race to space but I do not know if they would be so ambitious about it as to venture in SE.

    Another problem is India’s booming economy in technology sector is mainly due to “Information Technology” causing talent crunch in other engineering areas. ISRO chair Madhavan Nair also expressed his concern on this few days back

    All these might change as we advance towards space elevator, but based on current conditions I am not too sure about India’s role in building SE.

  2. Ted Semon

    Parmanu – thank you for your comments. They are greatly appreciated.

    I don’t think that India, on its own, would build a Space Elevator. But what if the government of Dubai (UAE) would approach the government of India in the near future with the following offer:

    “We want to build a Space Elevator as we think it would be a significant money maker and a way to advance human progress. But we don’t have the expertise or muscle to do it. However, we are willing to fund both the development and the initial operating cost – we will take all of the financial risk. Are you interested?”

    My guess is that your government would say yes. There is no financial risk and your Space Program would grow by leaps and bounds.

    On your own, no (I don’t think the US Government would do it, on their own, either). But with the financial aspect takien care of, why not?

    Color me optimistic, but I think it could happen…

  3. Brian

    New York state financed te Erie Canal on it’s own. The cost was (book is upstairs, going by memory) a large portion of their budget … and it paid off for them before it was done.

    There is precedent.

  4. David

    I would like to see a more US based space elevator. I hope that it is something that the US government does come around and help go with. This notion of the space elevator is something that is backed by many many theoredical physics. I hope that can get this project made and that gives some governments closer to the US the faith in the project.

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