Yes, you definitely read that right. Although it sounds like its straight out of a sci-fi movie, it’s actually true. Researchers have developed the world’s first space elevator. A Japanese research team that has been working to develop a “space elevator” is scheduled to conduct the first trial this month. The plan is to launch miniature versions of satellites to test the technology. These test satellites have been produced by researchers at Shizuoka University. An H-2B rocket of Japan’s space agency will carry the equipment to space. The rocket will take off from the southern island of Tanegashima next week.
The test involves a miniature elevator just six centimeters (2.4 inches) long, three centimeters wide, and three centimeters high. It will move along a 10-meter cable suspended in space between two mini-satellites. Basically, this should provide enough proof of concept that the technology works. The mini-elevator will travel along the cable from a container in one of the satellites.
“It’s going to be the world’s first experiment to test elevator movement in space,” said a university spokesman. Cameras in the satellites will monitor the movement of the motorized “elevator” box. If you’re thinking that this means space elevators will be a reality soon, you might be wrong. The technology might not be mature enough for that for our lifetime.
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The idea was initially proposed in 1895 by Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky after he saw the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Several authors have included the concept in their sci-fi novels. But as you can probably tell, this kind of technology is not easy to develop. Additionally, various technical hurdles had forced this idea to remain in the concept stage for a very long time. However, the technology still has hope as this might be the first in a serious of tests about the project.
Japanese construction firm Obayashi is collaborating with the Shizuoka university project. The firm has its own plans, it plans to create a space elevator for tourism purposes by 2050. The company has said it could use carbon nanotube technology, which is more than 20 times stronger than steel, to build a lift shaft 96,000 kilometers (roughly 60,000 miles) above the Earth.