from the i'll-still-take-the-stairs-for-now dept.
Bucc5062 writes "LaserMotive has achieved the first step towards the creation of a working space elevator by qualifying for the $900,000 prize in a contest sponsored by NASA. To achieve this first level, LaserMotive needed to propel a platform up a cable dangling from a helicopter at over 2 m/s. They hit a top speed of 4.13 m/s. The next level of qualification will be to achieve a climb speed greater then 5 m/s. LaserMotive beamed roughly 400 watts of laser power to a moving target at a distance of 1 kilometer, as part of the vertical laser alignment procedure. The target was a retro-reflective board a little larger than 1 meter on a side. The contest will continue for another two days with at least two other teams challenging for the prize. To win the Power Beaming competition, the LaserMotive system uses a high-power laser array to shine ultra-intense infrared light onto high-efficiency solar cells, converting the light into electric power which then drives a motor. 'Our system will track the vehicle as it climbs, compensating for motion due to wind and other changes. Building on our experience from last year’s competition, we are designing an improved system able to capture the full $2,000,000 prize.'"
Today's scientific question is: What in the world is electricity?
And where does it go after it leaves the toaster?
-- Dave Barry, "What is Electricity?"