Kickstarter has a project that is looking for funding to help with space elevator research. For those who aren't Star Trek fans, a space elevator is a device for lifting things into space.
Long the staple of science fiction - a space elevator plays a role in the most recent Star Trek picture -the science behind the space elevator is real. All it takes is:
- A space station in geosynchronous orbit (also serves as a counterweight)
- A tether line made of carbon nanotubes stretching from the space station to the ground - about 25,000 miles or so.
- A freight car propelled by a laser beam (or some other exotic method).
- A location where no one would mind if this thing fell on them if something went wrong (like in the Star Trek movie).
The folks looking for funding, the LiftPort Group, have blown past their request for $8,000 (they are over $25k). They are going to use this funding to launch a balloon with a tether 2k up in the sky. After launching, a robot will climb the tether.
According to an article in TG Daily, the end goal is building a space elevator on the moon. Except for being pretty far away, the moon is a much easier place to build a space elevator than the earth (less gravity, fewer land use laws, no neighbors to complain, etc).
Needless to say, there are a few technical kinks to be worked out before a true space elevator can be built. So it's good that the Kickstarter community is willing to fund this effort.
This illustrates a couple of interesting trends. First, crowdfunding is becoming a serious option for funding small projects. Second, the commercialization of space is happening. We written before about space being the final small business frontier. LiftPort is an example.