TropicalCoder is the reader who submitted the story about the possible demise of LiftPort a couple of weeks back. The resulting discussion was mostly negative about the feasibility of building a space elevator. TropicalCoder writes: "At one point during the discussion, LiftPort founder Michael J. Laine personally entered the discussion, but for the most part remained invisible since he hadn't logged in. I responded to his comment that if he would like a chance to rebut the criticisms, he should contact me and I would undertake to interview him and post the resulting story on Slashdot." Read below for the story of how Mr. Laine's detailed reply and rebuttal to that Slashdot discussion came about. TropicalCoder asks, "After reading LiftPort's rebuttal to Slashdot critics, do any of you now feel your pessimism somewhat dispelled?"
Michael Laine called me long distance via cell phone that very day from his back yard near Seattle, and spoke with me for over an hour. Michael came across as a rather sober, likable fellow, not at all like the crackpot image one would conjure up from reading many of the Slashdot comments. He was clearly wounded by the stinging criticisms in the Slashdot discussion, and I couldn't help empathizing with him. Here was man who had put his money where his mouth was, risking everything on his dream, perhaps suffering his darkest hour, and enduring ridicule on top of that.
At no point during the conversation did I get any impression of a huckster who would sell you the Brooklyn Bridge, something that I was on the lookout for. It was clear to me that he sincerely believes in what he is doing. Whether he succeeds in the end or not, I would prefer to call him a "visionary." After all, for every great visionary you can recall from history, there must have been a thousand others who tried and failed, but are no less visionary because of that. The jury is still out on LiftPort, and rumors of their death would be premature. They continue their research, and as I write are preparing for the "Tethered Towers" demo on Thursday June 28.
At the end of the conversation it was agreed that I would summarize the Slashdot discussion for him and offer him an opportunity for point-by-point rebuttal. I completed this summary (in which many Slashdot readers will recognize their own words), and sent it off to him the next day. He acknowledged receipt and promised an answer shortly. A few weeks passed, and I imagined that he must have decided in the end that the criticisms were so severe, perhaps it would be best just to try to forget it. It was a total surprise to me when a thoroughly detailed response arrived in my mailbox today, demonstrating that the people at LiftPort at least are still convinced that building a space elevator is possible.
Space elevator themes have been celebrated in science fiction and many Slashdot readers have shared the dream, only to become disillusioned with the apparent pending demise of LiftPort. After reading LiftPort's rebuttal to Slashdot critics, do any of you now feel your pessimism somewhat dispelled?"