Tuesday, February 17, 2009
it wasn't raining when noah built the ark
I've been working on a silk painting this weekend but it can get a bit boring waiting for one part to dry so I can work on the next. There came a point when I found myself staring out of the window and thinking about the $4million prize that was offered by NASA for some problem solving.
Since the 1950's, people, animals and hardware have thundered into orbit, shoved skyward by barely controlled explosions. Now that I have Friday's off work I've decided to do something useful and build my own space elevator.
By adding carbon nanotubes (roughly 10,000 times as thin as a human hair) to very pretty strands of dyed silk, I've invented a fiber strong enough and light enough to form the backbone of a space-elevator system. A sturdy tree in our backyard will serve as an excellent anchor for the thin cable and there's terrific bus service to our neighborhood for all who wish to fly or who just want to come and wave good-bye.
The cars themselves will be made of woven baskets that will be propelled by helium filled circus balloons. Passengers will be able to ride into space in a very relaxed atmosphere all the way to the geosynchronous space station whose design Crow is currently completing. He envisions it being made of stained glass panels so the unhindered light of the sun can make a fabulous display for his guests who've always wanted to see what the world looks like without suffering the agony and inconvenience of riding in a cramped rocket.
It all sounds plausible: my cable will extend up to its station 22,245 miles into space, kept under tension by the competing forces of gravity on Earth and the outward centrifugal acceleration at the platform end. The cable then extends a further 40,000 miles into space to a counterweight that helps keep the whole structure stable. I'm thinking we can use the all the weapons, tanks and SUV's made in the last 50 years for the counterweight and can fill them with the oligarchs of our political and financial systems. Maybe after they've had a few good swings around the planet they'll come to their senses.
“Riding silently into the sky, soon she was 100km high, higher even than the old pioneering rocket planes, the X15s, used to reach. The sky was already all but black above her, with a twinkling of stars right at the zenith, the point to which the ribbon, gold-bright in the sunlight, pointed like an arrow. Looking up that way she could see no sign of structures further up the ribbon, no sign of the counterweight. Nothing but the shining beads of more spiders clambering up this thread to the sky. She suspected she still had not grasped the scale of the elevator, not remotely.”
From Firstborn by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter
Publisher: Del Ray