21 July 2010, JellyBean @ 6:04 pm

The idea of a space elevator has been around since the late 1800’s, but despite big dreams and years of research, the low-cost, easy access to orbit that a space elevator promises is likely still decades away. The biggest problem rests on the fact that no one has been able to successfully manufacture long ribbons made of ultra-light, ultra-strong carbon nanotubes, the only known material that is strong enough for a space elevator. But entrepreneur Michael Laine believes a lunar elevator – a space elevator from the surface of the Moon – could be created with materials that are available now. With more research and the right amount of capital, Laine says a lunar elevator could be built within a decade.

While Laine said he is still “emotionally very invested” in the concept of a space elevator based on Earth, for now he has shifted his focus to the lunar elevator. “There was a question of where was I going to put my time,” he told Universe Today, “and being able to do this soon – perhaps within 5-7 years and not some mythic 15-25 years in the future is enticing.”

Since the Moon’s gravity is only one sixth that of Earth, it drastically reduces the requirements of the ribbon. A material that is available now, a synthetic polymer material called Zylon (poly(p-phenylene-2,6-benzobisoxazole) which has high strength and excellent thermal stability, could be used.

Additionally, the components to build the elevator that would be sent to the Moon would be relatively lightweight, so a smaller rocket would do the job. “The physical requirements of the system look like you could use a standard Atlas or Delta rocket to launch the components.” Laine said. “That’s a big deal that you don’t need to build something like a Saturn V.”

Read the article here: Universe Today

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