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Space Science

NPR Talks Skyhooks 328

David writes "NPR's Talk of the Nation this past week featured Brad Edwards, President of Carbon Designs Inc., to talk about their plans to develop an elevator that would lift people to an object orbiting in outer space. The project's homepage details their plans and ambitions. The discussion expands on callers' concerns about such problems as commercial airliners running into the super long cable or if it would act as a conduit for lightning."
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NPR Talks Skyhooks

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  • wrong concerns (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cryptoz ( 878581 ) <> on Sunday June 05, 2005 @05:41PM (#12731093) Homepage Journal
    Wow, our society has changed. The concept of airliners being uninformed of the location of these cables or whatever they are is just plain stupid. Of course they will know that they're there. Not to mention, even if they didn't know, the chance of a collision is fabulously small.

    People should be more worried about if this is the best way to spend money or not. Personally, I think it's a pretty sweet idea and I'd be totally for supporting it. Looks quite awesome, actually!
  • Re:wrong concerns (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Sunday June 05, 2005 @05:44PM (#12731114)
    Not to mention, even if they didn't know, the chance of a collision is fabulously small.

    Unless the pilot is a crazed Saudi with a taste for Flight Simulator...
  • Space Elevators... (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 05, 2005 @05:52PM (#12731142)
    Space elevators are, by far, the biggest form of snake oil in our time. It may become the biggest form of snake oil ever.

    You can mod me any way you like but, anyone that invests in a space elevator deserves the loss that they are guaranteed!
  • Re:wrong concerns (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 05, 2005 @05:52PM (#12731144)
    I would imagine the concern with airliners would be more in line with, say, having them hijacked and rammed into the elevator. Although to be fair, I'm sure that a space elevator's cables would be small enough to make them fairly difficult to aim at with an aircraft.

    This still leaves the question of how to defend a very long, expensive and symbolic set of cables from attacks (either by terrorists or militaries), however.
  • Re:Cripes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mbrother ( 739193 ) * <mbrother@uwy[ ]du ['o.e' in gap]> on Sunday June 05, 2005 @05:58PM (#12731169) Homepage
    It isn't overhyped until there are competing groups actually building one. Furthermore, what is "overhyped on slashdot" is rarely even in the public consciousness. Live with it, love it, until it spills into the public imagination and gets warped into an evil, multi-national corporation's wet dream. THEN complain.

    I agree that most of the technical objections are not-too-hard-to-overcome engineering challenges, not showstoppers. If you're reading this and think you have a fatal flaw to the whole concept, and haven't spent months on it doing some calculations and reading papers, I'll take the opportunity to laugh at your idea now.
  • by Profane MuthaFucka ( 574406 ) * <> on Sunday June 05, 2005 @06:01PM (#12731183) Homepage Journal
    It always comes up, but protecting a space elevator is really
    simple to solve. Put the base in the ocean, and stick a carrier task force there to protect it.

    We already have an example to follow. Fort Knox has a tank combat training ground there, and plenty of tanks stationed there permanently. Good luck trying to raid the place.

    Terrorist attacks are dangerous because they could happen anywhere, but that doesn't mean that we can't make a single known place extremely secure from that sort of thing. If it is decided that no aircraft will approach within 100 miles of a space elevator, a single carrier task group could enforce that easily. Revenues from the space elevator would easily pay for the security force too, and it'll still be the cheapest way to get something into space.

  • Re:wrong concerns (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bobetov ( 448774 ) on Sunday June 05, 2005 @06:02PM (#12731189) Homepage
    Please. Stopping the construction of fabulous new projects because they could be terrorist targets is defeatist at best.

    Besides, the very first use of the very first skyhook should be to build the *second* one. It only gets easier the more we do it, and boy, does taking an elevator beat strapping an explosion to your butt.

    Here's to audacity and dreaming big dreams.
  • by Mr. Foogle ( 253554 ) <brian DOT dunbar AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday June 05, 2005 @07:20PM (#12731602) Homepage
    It's easier than that. One space elevator is precious. Two are less so and the progression is geometric. Build a bunch OF them and your target problem is by and large solved.

    Once it's in service for a while, the 'new' factor is gone and it's just another large structure, less suited for a terrorist target than most. No one really sweats a terr attack at Johnson Space Center after all.
  • Re:wrong concerns (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Sunday June 05, 2005 @08:34PM (#12732001) Homepage
    Unless the pilot is a crazed Saudi with a taste for Flight Simulator...

    And what if he is? The elevator is in the middle of a frickin' 4000 square mile no-fly zone. They'd see him coming for several hours before he got there. There would be loads of time to, um, dissuade him from his course.

  • Seeing it hasn't been brought up yet, no material strong enough to build the elevator yet exists. It is not yet clear whether it is even possible to do so. Carbon nanotubes may be strong enough, but nobody has yet been able to assemble them together into a "ribbon" of the strength required yet.
  • Re:wrong concerns (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GameMaster ( 148118 ) on Monday June 06, 2005 @12:23AM (#12733114)
    The planes used in the 9/11 attack were 4 planes flying in an airspace occupied by so many other commercial aircraft that the FAA has a hard time tracking them all. The number of flights flying around the Northeastern United States is insane. Also, there was no reason for the military to think those planes were necessarily going to be used as weapons so they probably didn't think there was a need to break the regulations that stop them from going too fast over populated areas.

    This proposed space elevator is supposedly around 400 miles from any commercial air lanes. Long before a plane actually enters a no-fly zone it can be intercepted and questioned as to why it's even getting close to the elevator. Also, if an aircraft carrier were stationed close to the elevator they would:

    a) have nothing better to do than watch for planes getting close
    b) they would always have it in the back of their minds that a plane could be used to attack the ribbon
    c) they would have no other distractions in the airspace for hundreds of miles

    There is no reason to think that, under these circumstances, highly trained fighter pilots flying heavily armed modern fighter craft would be unable to shoot down any civilian aircraft that strayed too close and couldn't be convinced to peacefully leave. For that matter, there is no reason to think, now that we have seen them used as weapons, that the US Airforce couldn't do the same thing in the continental US should another situation like 9/11 occur again.

  • Re:wrong concerns (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Barny ( 103770 ) <> on Monday June 06, 2005 @01:59AM (#12733472) Journal
    I believe that if the threat of terrorism stops the impetus of science and new developments, it has done its job very well.

    Keep pushing new things :)

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears