Lunar ‘space elevator’ may soon become sci-fact

Lift off! Lunar 'space elevator' may be built by 2020US firm announced an ambitious project to build a lunar space elevator that could transport both robots and humans using an existing technology, in less than a decade. Fundraising efforts are already underway.

­Firm’s founder and former NASA researcher Michael Laine stated that LiftPort Group is capable of building a lunar space elevator within this decade. “About six months ago, we had a fundamental breakthrough, a breakthrough that we think is going to transform human civilization and we want you to be a part of it,” Laine said.

A lunar space elevator is a cable running from the surface of the moon into space. It is similar to a concept known as the earth space elevator, which is LiftPort’s ultimate goal. The idea of the space elevator is designed to permit transport along the cable from a planetary surface directly into space without the use of large rockets. The cable would be held up due to the competing forces of gravity and the upward centrifugal force.

Laine claims that it is not possible to build the earth elevator today, as “the technology isn’t there yet.” Instead, he proposes “to build one on the Moon.”

“It is significantly easier, and much much cheaper. Importantly – we can build it with current technology – in about eight years,” he said.

LiftPort’s successful fundraiser was launched on August 24 and will last until September 13. Within four days into it the group has already surpassed the needed amount of $8k by five thousand dollars raising the total raised to over 13k. The fundraiser is being hosted by the online Kickstarter platform that previously funded various activities including indie films, music, journalism, video games, etc.

The campaign’s first step will provide funding to just test the system on earth with a 2km high elevator.  Laine’s overall goal is to raise $3 million in order to produce the feasibility study and a detailed construction plan of the lunar system.

­Forces behind the idea of space elevator

­The idea of space elevator is not new. Researches have been looking into the possibility of a space elevator for decades. First, the idea has been brought forward by science-fiction writers such as, Arthur C. Clarke and his “The Fountains of Paradise,” published in 1979. However, the needed technology was never there to make any of it possible.

LiftPort Group is not the only one trying to create a working space elevator. For example, Seattle-based LaserMotive has won the NASA sponsored 2009 Space Elevator Games, while Japan’s Obayashi Corp unveiled plans to transport goods and passengers in a space elevator by 2050. Nevertheless, LiftPort is the only one that claims a space elevator can be built with today’s technology – and soon.

LiftPort’s project attracted the attention of the Space Elevator Conference being held from August 25 to 27 in Seattle, Washington, in which the group is also participating in. The conference promotes the development of space elevators as a revolutionary and efficient way to space.

This year’s program focuses on operations and maintenance of space elevator, various conceptual designs and latest progress in high strength Carbon Nanotube research, which is a material that is predicted to be able to handle earth’s gravity and keep the space elevator cable stretched.

“With space elevators, we hope to drop the cost of space access by a factor of 10, or even 100”, chair of the event and owner of Odysseus Technologies Bryan Laubscher told GeekWire website.