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Japanese Company Planning Elevator To Outer Space

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February 28th, 2012

Obayashi Corporation is behind the nearly complete Tokyo Sky Tree, pictured here

Up till now, “space tourism” has been something only multi-billionaires could afford.

But if one Japanese engineering firm has it’s way, sometime in the next 40-50 years, just your regular old millionaires might get to take vacations in taking an elevator up to a space station tied to the earth with a giant steel cable.

It’s not exactly democratic, but it is progress.

The Obayashi Corporation has announced plans to build the world’s first elevator into space by 2050. It may sound like science fiction, but they are totally serious.

This is the same engineering firm behind the Tokyo Sky Tree tower, which is the tallest structure in Japan and is currently entering final stages of construction.

While working on the Sky Tree, engineers at Obayashi had the idea, why stop at 2,080 feet? Why not just keep going?

So they came up with plans to build a space station, place it into geosynchronous orbit with the earth (meaning it orbits at the same rate that the earth spins), and anchor it to the planet with a series of massive carbon nanotube cables. Then they’ll have an some type of vessel—a pod, perhaps?—that will travel up the cables to the space station, making for easy, no-training-required access to outer space.

The “elevator” will be capable of carrying 30 people at a time and will travel at about 125mph, meaning the trip up will take about a week. So you’ll wanna make sure you bring your iPad 43.

What do people do once their at the space station? Take lots of pictures, read a book, play cards—who knows? Whatever they do, they’ll be doing it in space. Which is crazy awesome.

Obayashi insists their space elevator is technically feasible. However, they estimate it will cost around $9.5 billion to build and admit that they don’t know who would pay for it or where they would build it—though somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean has been suggested.

The view of earth from the geosynchronous space station

The base of the space elevator, possibly to be located in the middle of the Indian Ocean

[via The Week]

I am a freelance writer specializing in sports, humor, politics, technology, and, from time to time, pop culture. Also, Esteban is not my real name, but I wish was.
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