Fund An Elevator To Space

08.27.12 David Lumb

$1 probably won’t do much to pay for an elevator to space, but it’s a cheap price to pay to be a part of humanity’s journey into SPACE. Liftport is hoping to jumpstart their space elevator project that has long been a sci-fi wet dream while the world waits for technology to maintain the vertical elevator against the stresses of gravity and atmosphere.

Liftport was originally under NASA contract in 2001 but went private in 2003. Since then, they’ve tested their “elevator” concept by having tiny robots climb cables up to high-altitude weather balloons two kilometers into the atmosphere. The project stalled in 2007 when the economy crashed and Liftport postponed research in light of insufficient technological advance; the Kickstarter campaign will “restart the engine” for Liftport, building back its community by emphasizing participation through under-$51 donations rather than shooting for fewer high-profile donations to help fund future projects. Instead, Liftport will start additional Kickstarter campaigns for each significant campaign step.

Here’s the bait-and-switch spoiler: the tech for a space elevator on Earth still doesn’t exist, but it does for an elevator on the moon, which has less gravity and no atmosphere. “Specifically, we’ll build a robot, and climb a string into the sky. We’ll reach as high as we can, safely, and collect all sorts of data,” the Kickstarter page says, noting that they’ll do more if they surpass their $8,000 goal–which they have, reaching $14,739 with 16 days to go. $20k–“then we can install a much improved sensor suite…GPS, a full package of weather monitors like temperature, wind, humidity, and placement of sensors on vital elements of the robot – wheels, motors, Ribbon guides” $30k–Web videos. $50k–unknown territory, with the need to develop “thermal protections, interior heating, and a different communications configuration. Something’s bound to break. We know our balloons are not made for this, so we’ll have to figure something out. We call that ‘science.'” Plus, they’re teasing a web-controlled camera.

(Photo: beechamDesign/Youtube)