Saturday, December 02, 2006

Russia Considers Lunar, Martian Space Elevators Authentic NASA Toys and Replicas
(Hat Tip: Space Elevator Blog, One and Two)

Not desiring to deal with the hassles of launching and landing a payload from Earth to the Moon and Mars, Russia is considering building a space elevator in order to help cut down on transport expenses.

(RIA Novosti) Scientists from the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences have developed a unique space elevator for lunar and Martian missions. Although a bit slower, the new system will cut back on interplanetary delivery expenses. [...]

In 1965, the Central Machine-Building Design Bureau, headed by leading rocket scientist Sergei Korolev, a member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, started preparing for the first space-tether experiment. The Bureau, which later changed its name to Energia Rocket and Space Corporation, planned to link a Soyuz spacecraft to the last stage of the launch vehicle using a steel cable. Unfortunately, this project was mothballed after Korolev's death and resumed by Energia only 20 years later.

The fact that they started this project is a testimony to the Russian spirit to push the boundries of space technology as we know it. Although there is no mention of a space elevator on Energia's website, it is good to see another company (aside from LiftPort) taking the concept seriously, if not on Earth then elsewhere.

The Russian Space Research Institute, another organization considering the possibilities of a space elevator, has already outlined a fancy way of building one on the Moon.

(RIA Novosti) Theoretical studies and experiments showed that the cluster should comprise two cableway systems, one in a low circular and the other in a low elliptical Earth orbit, and one cableway in a circular equatorial lunar orbit. The dimensions of all three cableways should create different gravitational potentials at each end. By adjusting tether length, it will be possible to change each orbital system's angular speed of rotation.

The space-elevator cluster will exchange payloads between orbital cableways. In essence, two-way freight traffic would turn such cableways into a transportation artery.

A lunar space elevator would definitely go a long ways towards colonizing the lunar surface. There are some who even think one may be built before one is constructed on Earth.

But unlike the moon, a lunar space elevator would have to be constructed out of cheap materials due to the fact that space rocks raining down from above can easily damage the lunar lift, temporarily crippling transport to the moon.

A Martian space elevator may not fare any better, as the red planet is known to harbor violent storms that cover the entire surface.

Russia may be able to overcome both of these problems (at least in the lunar scenario) as one should not wager against technological breakthroughs in the space arena. But even if space elevators are only feasible on planet Earth, just being able to construct one within the solar system is enough to change the history of our planet as we know it.

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