Scientists Prepare to Launch Space Elevator Experiment

Going up. Japanese researchers will run a small-scale test next week.

space elevator, image illustration
space elevator, image illustration
Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky was the first person to publicly dream about an elevator connecting Earth to space in 1895, and in 2018, Japanese researchers will initiate the world’s first experiment in space elevator movement. Scientists from Shizuoka University will take a very small step next week toward making the stunning concept a reality, according to a story in Smithsonian Magazine based on reports from Agence France-Presse.

The theoretical model would place one cable of the elevator near the Earth’s equator and the other in space beyond geostationary orbit more than 22,000 miles away. The small-scale experiment the researchers will run consists of two four-inch cubic satellites and a 33-foot steel cable that connects them.

No matter the success of the experiment, a real-life space elevator is still far off in the future. We don’t know whether there are materials strong enough for the elevator cable, or what form the space-end of the tether would take. The space elevator of Tsiolkovsky’s dreams, nevertheless, would take people into space without the wild cost and danger of a rocket voyage.

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