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Japan all set to test its first space elevator

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The idea of space elevator is not new. Ace science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke conceptualized it in his novels. But now a company is actually going to try it. A Japanese team has developed a “space elevator” and is all set to send the first prototype into Earth orbit later this month.

“The experiment will be the first of its kind ever to be conducted in space,” mentioned Japan’s Mainichi newspaper.

As envisioned by researchers, the elevator would be a low-cost alternative to rockets for sending objects and even astronauts into space.

On September 11, the research team from Shizuoka University will be launching a scale model in space, which includes: two micro satellites just 10 cm a side, connected by a 10 m steel cable. To be released from the International Space Station (ISS), the pair of satellites would be equipped with cameras to monitor the experiment in space.

The test equipment will be carried on an H-2B rocket being launched by Japan’s space agency from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture, the newspaper added.

Space Elevator: A Look Back
For the uninitiated, this is not a completely novel idea to use elevators for space travel and cargo shipments in the future.

Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky first came up with the idea in 1895 after catching a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The idea found a mention in a novel by Arthur C. Clarke nearly a century later.

Japan’s plan for a space elevator came to the fore six years ago after construction firm Obayashi Corporation chalked out an electric-powered design. It could transport up to 30 people at a time into space.

Realizing the ‘Space Elevator’ Dream
If the motorised container could successfully act as an elevator car between two mini satellites, the achievement would bridge the gap of realizing the dream of building an elevator between Earth and space.

Here, technical barriers include developing a high-strength cable using carbon nanotechnology, and one that are resistant to cosmic rays and incoming space debris. The challenge of funding such a gargantuan project cannot be underestimated as well.

Well, for now, let’s keep our fingers crossed and wish the team success in its new endeavour!

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