Imagine having an elevator that took you straight to the moon. Just step in and let the elevator carry you. Scientists have predicted we will be able to do just that as early as 2050. NASA, along with space agencies in China and Japan, have been working on this idea for years.
How it Would Work
The idea is simple, but carrying it out isn’t as easy. The elevator would have to be strong enough to take atmospheric pressure. A cable would be stretched from a satellite above the high Earth orbit, known as the geosynchronous orbit, and then attached to a floating anchor station at the equator. Then the elevator would be able to travel back and forth from the Earth to a space station.
Another idea is to have the cable running directly from the moon down toward the Earth, and then hang in the geosynchronous orbit, which is 22,236 miles above the surface. This way might even be possible today; for the first, scientists and engineers would still have to devise a strong enough cable to support the elevator.
Problems with the Elevator
While the idea of taking an elevator to the moon is exciting, there are still some problems that would need to be worked out before it can become a reality. Michael Laine, the founder of LiftPort Group, worked at the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) from 2001 to 2003. He said, “Mathematically, the Earth elevator concept models very nicely. The problem is that in the actual real world there are still a lot of problems with it.”
One of the biggest issues is the geosynchronous orbit, which is a high Earth orbit. This area allows the satellites to match our planet’s rotation. This is the perfect position for satellites to monitor weather, communications, and surveillance. Not only would these cables need to be strong enough to support the weight of the elevator and cargo, they would also need to be able to dodge the many satellites and other space junk flying around.