How to go to space using a broomstick

January 6th, 2009 - 4:24 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Jan 6 (ANI): If scientists have their way, future astronauts would be literally going into space by a broomstick, in the form of a 100,000km long tether anchored to the Earth as a space elevator.

According to a report by BBC News, Raymond Riise of the European Space Agency demonstrated the device at a space elevator conference in December last year.

First mooted by Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in 1895, the space elevator idea has captured imaginations as what would be the greatest space mission ever conceived.

The idea rests on making use of the outward centrifugal force supplied by the Earths rotation.

If the centrifugal force provided by the Earth is balanced with its gravitational force, by making use of a space elevator cable or tether whose centre of mass is at geostationary orbit, the tether would be held taut permanently, providing a means to propel people and cargo into space.

A long-standing critical issue is how to power the climber that would ascend the cable into space.

Prevailing ideas include delivering microwave or laser power to the climber beamed from the Earths surface, or even from orbiting solar power collectors.

But, European Space Agency ground station engineer Riise provided a markedly more simple idea.

He proposed sending power mechanically, effectively by providing a carefully timed jerk of the cable at its base.

To demonstrate, he employed a broomstick to represent the cable held in tension, and an electric sander to provide a rhythmic vibration to the bottom of the stick.

Around the broomsticks circumference, he tied three brushes representing the climber with their bristles pointing downwards, meaning it took slightly more force to lower the brush assembly than to raise it.

The vibration from the sander allowed the assembly to slide upward along the broomstick as it moved slightly downward, but grip it as it moved slightly upward.

The net effect was that the assembly rose against gravity straight to the top of the stick.

The prototypes approach would make for a bumpy ride in practice, but according to Riise, the rhythmic tugging on the cable could be smoothed out.

It would be possible to make a suspension system that completely decouples the cabin where the passengers are, he told BBC News. For them, it would be a linear movement with very little disturbance, he added. (ANI)

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