"(singularityhub.com 2012.08.30) Building a tower into the Heavens is a prospect that is likely as old as human civilization itself, and for the last 50 years or so, scientists have proposed that the best way to realize the idea is to construct a space elevator. NASA scientists put together plans for such a tower in 2000, but those efforts have been toppled by funding cuts. Now, a once abandoned group of companies aiming to build the first space elevator has reformed and recommitted to the dream with a campaign on Kickstarter. The LiftPort Group launched the project in mid August with a $8,000 goal and had raised over $40,000 just past the halfway point.
For all the excitement about undertaking such an endeavor, the group’s Kickstarter pitch speculates that a functional Earth Space Elevator is “a long way off. Perhaps 20-25 years. Before that happens there are some vital interim steps.”
One step that is a significant change since LiftPort initially conceived of the project is to build the first space elevator not on Earth, but on the Moon. Citing that “several more breakthroughs” are required to build an elevator for Earth, the group says a Lunar elevator can be built with existing technology in about 8 years and serve as a precursor to building the Earth elevator. To accomplish this, a one-year feasibility study for building the infrastructure needs to be conducted that is estimated to cost $3 million, which is just a fraction of the estimated $800 million to $1.5 billion cost for a completed Lunar elevator with a payload of 40-240 kg, according to a podcast form the spring.
Additionally, a precursor to the Lunar elevator will initially be attempted, called the Tethered Towers. Based on the group’s previous work using a ribbon as a tower, the plan is to design a robot capable of climbing 2 km or higher and building a tethered test platform suspended by high-altitude balloons. The previous LiftPort team accomplished a similar feat in 2006 when they had a robot climb 1.5 km up, but Michael Laine, President of LiftPort, stated in the Kickstarter description that the current team consists of a lot of new blood and needs a reachable milestone to fuse as an organization.
If the first tower is a success, the team will set out to tether a 3-5 km tower, which will present its own challenges because of the colder temperatures encountered at those altitudes..."