Thursday, February 3, 2011

Of shoes, and ships, and ceiling wax

I've been thinking. Normally, this would not make me any friends, and would, in fact, make me snicker a bit. But it must be said that I do dream, and i do look to the future, and I do wonder about our past. What could we have done better / differently, and what can we do in the future to make it better for our grandchildren..
So when I read this I continued cogitating. I looked back into my dusty memory pool, and pulled out a book that I read in the late 1970s. I still have it, somewhere. I don't recall its name, but it was written by Jerry pournelle, a famous scince fiction writer. it was a series of essays on what we can do now (in the 1970s) and etc.
Pournell postulated different ways of lifting payloads into space that weren't reliant on out-dated rocket technology. Among the ideas he investigated was one that was first suggested by Arthur C Clarke, another sci-fi writer: he wrote 2001.
The Space Elevator. Pournelle and Clarke both knew that the materials to build such a thing existed only theoretically in 1975, but were coming soon. And yes, we have them now: buckyballs, carbon fibre, mono-molecular fibres - building materials of enormous strength and durability. materials which make Clarke's Space Elevator a practicality. Simply tie one end to an equatporial base, build it up really, really high, and tie it to a big heavy thing at the legrange point. Start sliding stuff up and down it.
Current payloads cost around $100,000US per pound to make, at the very least. It costs another $150,000US per pound to get them into orbit. The elvator would begate most of those costs. It could also collect vast amounts of solar power, and safely carry it down to the surface... enough energy to run large nations. It would give us a base from which we could go and collect asteroids, to bring 'em back and mine them: endless clean minerals.
And yes, it would be expensive. Probably oh, $100Us for every man, woman, and child on earth. The thing is, it would bring wealth to a large number of impoverished people. Nice dream, Socialist Pete.
Reading: Reed farrel Coleman, "Innocent Monster". looking good.
Listening to: Ennio Morricone movie themes.