This could be very cool, but it seems like even if other technical problems are solved the thing would be hugely vulnerable and tempting as a target of terrorism. Not to mention random debris. I don't want to be a naysayer in the face of progress here, but I'd say we're closer, but not really close.
It has been theoretically possible for years to build a structure like that. Problem is that it is up to now an engineering impossibility. At the moment the weight of the cables and machinery needed is still such that the lift would be too heavy to lift by any means available. Carbon nanotubes would cure that problem, but only if they can not only be created in sufficient length but mechanisms designed to connect the lift capsules to it.
If I understand correctly, the best place to build a space elevator would be on the equator or close to the equator? If someone out there wants to correct me, please do, cant exactly remember why the best place to put such a structure would be on the equator ;-) Cheers, Mark
Mark Fletcher - http://www.markfletcher.org/blog I had some Java certs, but they're too old now...
If I understand correctly, the best place to build a space elevator would be on the equator or close to the equator? Correct. Pretty much the only place unless we want to tackle much harder engineering problems, and we've got enough difficulties already in this area. If someone out there wants to correct me, please do, cant exactly remember why the best place to put such a structure would be on the equator ;-) Orbital mechanics. Any structure we put up there is essentially a satellite in orbit. Well, not exactly, since it's also under forces from the connecting cable/structure/whatever. But it "wants" to go in a normal orbit, and any deviation from that creates additional forces in the supporting structure. Any natural circular orbit would be centered on the center of the earth, which means that it would have to intersect the equatorial plane at two points. Unless it's always in the equatorial plane. So, if we tried to put a space elevator north of the equator, orbital mechanics would keep trying to drag it south of the equator. Which would be a pain in the @$$ for the ground station that was built north of the equator. Thus, it's vastly preferable to put a space elevator on the equator, or very close to it (if you can tolerate some wobbling).
Originally posted by Anupam Sinha: Shouldn't it be on a higher altitude so you can rise as high as possible. One of the main issues - a permanent high altitude anchor point or a sea-level, moveable anchor point (similar to an oil platform. There are pros and cons to both ideas.