Show Details

Space Elevator

November 7, 2014

Could a “space elevator” carry supplies to the International Space Station?

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Space travel via elevator. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

An artist’s rendition of a proposed space elevator. (Pat Rawling/DVIDS/NASA)

A listener asked if it’s possible to build an elevator up to the International Space Station. NASA physicist Betsy Pugel says it’s actually something NASA’s investigating in the form of mechanized compartments that climb a cable into space.

BETSY PUGEL (NASA):

They’re little autonomous mechanical devices that can climb. You put them on these cable structures and they’re able to inch their way up.

HIRSHON:

A key challenge is the cable itself.

PUGEL:

You have to develop the cable first, because this is a long cable.

HIRSHON:

But it would weigh a bajillion tons.

PUGEL:

But you can’t make it a bajillion tons, so they’ve been developing these different kinds of unique cable structures that are composite based, that are carbon nanotube based so that they’re light and they’re strong and they can carry a load.

HIRSHON:

So some day sending spare parts up to a space station could be simply a matter of pressing the up button. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.