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Stairway To The Stars

Jeff Foust has a good overview on current prospects for building a space elevator.

Posted by Rand Simberg at September 15, 2003 10:04 AM
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I wonder what types of legal obstacles will have to be jumped over to make the se a reality. If it was a gov't project it would fly over better with the int'l community than if capitalist pigs were using it for greedy profit. It will have to be built in int'l waters after all.

Posted by X at September 15, 2003 01:31 PM

I'm concerned that, of all of the problems/dangers mentioned for a space elevator, terrorism was not among them.

I am all for a SE if/when we can build one. But I would think that an attack by terrorists would be at the top of the list of the things that the person in charge of such a project would be watching for, especially when you consider that such a project would be heavily backed by US money, if not owned outright by US interests. The "Great Satan" is, afterall, the prime target.

Posted by FDC at September 15, 2003 05:12 PM

The terror value of something in the middle of the pacific ocean, well away from any other developments, with a huge amount of time devoted to failure recovery, is actually pretty small. How much would it really scare people if a structure several thousand kilometers from anywhere was hit? Also, the location and distance from airline routes makes it pretty hard to get to.

Posted by James at September 15, 2003 09:48 PM

The space elevator isn't a particularly good terrorist target- if severed at ground level the elevator falls UP, not down, and probably can be reconnected again and nobody dies.

If severed at high altitude (thousands of miles)it's a different question, but that's difficult. The easiest way to do that is to carry an explosive charge up the cable, but that's easy to screen for- aeroplanes already do this.

Posted by Ian Woollard at September 18, 2003 07:54 AM

The likely locations of space elevators,
far off the coasts and well outside the traditional
sea lanes, make it unlikely that terrorists
could approach without being noticed. But since
private enterprises are unlikely to be given
the weapons and the authority to simply blow
up planes and ships that aren't where they should
be, I think this means that at least the first
space elevator is vulnerable to being taken out
more or less at will by hostile governments posing
as terrorists.

It may be after that that whomever is running a
space elevator will be given the authority to kill
people simply for being in the wrong place, but
unfortunately that burden of defending would
substantially raise the cost of running a space

Bradley Edwards does assume that Space Elevators
will fall, and I agree with that assumption and
believe we will only get into real trouble when
build something that we assume can't fall (but
would be catastrophic if it did).

Posted by Mark Amerman at September 22, 2003 01:13 PM

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