Now on Kickstarter: a space elevator

Space, you understand, is a long way from here. It's a long way straight up, which is one of the more difficult directions in which to travel. A particularly convenient way to travel straight up is with an elevator, and a company called LiftPort wants to fund the first stages of an elevator all the way to space, through Kickstarter.

LiftPort already has a significant amount of experience with space elevator technology. The company started under NASA, and then went private just before the economy tanked. Now that the economy is all fixed (right?), LiftPort is back, and it's ready to start work on the first ever fully armed and operational elevator to space. On the Moon.

It might seem a bit counterintuitive to shoot for the Moon first, but LiftPort has realized that while the technology for building a space elevator on Earth is still decades away, we can get one going on the Moon right now, even just as a proof of concept testbed. The Moon may not be the most convenient location, but low gravity, lack of atmosphere, and much lower minimum orbital distance make a lunar space elevator feasible with current technology. And $800 million, but that's for worrying about later.

While the technology might exist for a space elevator on the Moon, LiftPort isn't ready to deploy one there yet: there's still a bunch of work to do on Earth to get ready for the Moon elevator to prepare for the Earth elevator, which is where Kickstarter comes in. LiftPort is looking for funding to cover development and testing of an Earth-based "tethered tower," a two-kilometer cable held up by helium balloons that will be climbed by an experimental elevator car (or robotM, if you prefer). This is certainly feasible: LiftPort has made 1,000-foot climbs before.

After the two-kilometer climb, LiftPort will make a three to five-kilometer climb, which will involve dealing with the effects of subzero temperatures on battery packs, motors and lubricant. From the sound of things, LiftPort plans to fund all of this stuff through a succession of Kickstarter campaigns, which seems a bit optimistic to us, since you only really get one shot at catching that Kickstarter tidal wave of idealistic excitement-based funding. But with NASA desperately scrabbling for cash just to keep its existing programs from starving to death, we're definitely hoping that LiftPort can successfully leverage Kickstarter to make some real progress on a technology that's an undeniable hallmark of the future and actually, eventually, build us a space elevator already.

LiftPort, via Kickstarter

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