Patterico's Pontifications


A Space Elevator?

Filed under: Space — Patterico @ 7:05 am

Glenn Reynolds endorses the notion of a space elevator. Hmmm. Talk about a good terrorist target . . .

If they’re going to build a space elevator, I hope they don’t hire the company that built the elevators at the L.A. County Criminal Courts Building.

8 Responses to “A Space Elevator?”

  1. There was a lot interest in a Stairway to Heaven back in the 70’s. Not much came of it. But it sounded pretty good.

    Black Jack (ee9fe2)

  2. From our perspective, at least, space is already elevated. I think it would be much cooler to build a time elevator.

    CroolWurld (57d0a9)

  3. Talk about a good terrorist targe

    Tsk. I expected something smart and witty, not the old chesnut ‘that will make a good terrorist target’.

    * It won’t – the thing will be far away from land, surrounded by ocean.

    * Hard to see, hard to hit. Not a gauruntee of course but you’ll have trouble seeing it from a few hundred meters away – thin as paper and a meter wide.

    And so on. At least you didn’t make (grin) any jokes about pushing all the buttons or seven days of elevator music, for which one is thankful.

    Brian (041dda)

  4. If they’re going to build a space elevator, I hope they don’t hire the company that built the elevators at the L.A. County Criminal Courts Building.

    You hit the nail on the head with that one.

    Nick @ HBR (2cc3ac)

  5. Brian,

    It sounds like you’re more steeped in space elevator debate than I am, and I’ll admit my knowledge is superficial, but I don’t find your points terribly convincing, without more. Terrorists can ride boats and fly planes, and if something is wafer-thin, it sounds like an easy target.

    But I’m open to being educated. If it weren’t for terrorism, I’d be all for it. I was an avid science fiction reader in my younger days, and I’m all in favor of developments like this — in theory.

    Patterico (46e64b)

  6. Call me crazy, but riding something that is paper thin just doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. And as for it being a target for terrorists, don’t you think it would be easy for them to get to it being that people are going to be riding on the darned thing? If I could pay $275 and get to wherever it is located, I’m sure Sayeed and Kamal from Al Qaeda could as well.

    Nick @ HBR (2cc3ac)

  7. I’ve been working part-time for Highlift/ Liftport since 2001 – I’m not an engineer but you can’t help but soak up a knowledge of the thing by working here.

    For details I would point you to the following resources.

    Dr. Edwards Phase 2 NIAC study is our on site (PDF format) at

    We maintain a FAQ at Caution – it is not out of date but it needs to be updated.

    To expand on my answers

    Nothing is, or can be, built 100% disaster or terrorist proof. But we think a space elevator is not a likely target for a number of reasons.

    The base of the anchor will be some hundreds of miles west of South America, on the equator.

    No flight paths near the proposed site; an airplane cruising to the site will be obvious.

    The ribbon is a target that is hard to acquire visually.

    The anchor is (must be) mobile. With sufficient warning it gains the ability to move. If the original location is known (say by GPS) it very quickly becomes unknown. One of our enthusiasts is a naval aviator – he reports trying to find a platform at sea that does not WANT to be found is difficult under the best of circumstances.

    The catastrophe potential is limited. The ribbon material is lighter than a feather per hundreds of meters. Striking the anchor (severing the base) will cause the ribbon to float slowly up and west. To cause the structure to fail (and fall) requires hitting it higher up – much higher than terrs can reach with aircraft. And if they do .. we’d loose a cargo lifter or two into the ocean. The ribbon would have to be gathered up.

    A mess, sure. But not catastrophe.

    The best insurance of all? The first SE is used to build the second. The second becomes a backup and SE producing system while the first becomes a revenue machine.

    Killing A ribbon is a major problem. Knocking down one of thirty or forty is annoying.

    But really, if you’re convinced the terrorists are THAT much of a problem . . . we’re defeated. They’re not and we’re not. They are thugs, criminals and evil men but for all that they are limited in what they can do.

    They can only use our tools to tear us down. We can use them to build. I’ll put my money on the latter.

    Brian (00ceec)

  8. Wow a elivator to space TOP FLOOR MOON MARS AND THE ASERIOD BELT

    krazy kagu (cf73c3)

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