How a space elevator can change humanity
In today’s episode of Future Tech, I discuss how space elevators could change humanity. It’s no secret that spaceships are expensive. A final tally of NASAs space shuttle program’s lifetime costs puts the price tag at $1.5 billion per flight. Even SpaceX has said the operational cost is about $28 million per launch. Spaceflight is expensive. A space elevator would cost about 60 cents per pound. A person who weighs 100 pounds would cost $60 to go into space. That’s about the cost of a large SUV to fill up their gas tank! I talk about the cost and many other factors such as accessibility, technological advances, and becoming a multiplanetary species. So get ready to blast off, um, I mean listen to elevator music on the way up into space!
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Here’s the transcript from this podcast episode, please excuse any typos!
I want to start off by kind of giving the difference between a space elevator which I mean it’s pretty common sense. Title space elevator, and spaceships and rockets. The biggest difference that I can think of just from basic common sense, is rockets. And spaceships require a lot of fuel and that fuel is expensive, and the pockets themselves are expensive. And for decades, rockets were not reusable. They would pick off the rocket, shoot into space, or the space shuttle would shoot into space, and the secondary rockets would fall down and they would go into the ocean or they would burn up and we would just lose all of these rockets. And the fuel is just ridiculously expensive and we’re talking like millions of tons of rocket fuel and, and these are millions of dollars. The rockets themselves have been notoriously expensive, like billions of dollars, I mean, the Apollo missions and so on and so forth.
Space shuttle missions, we were talking billions of dollars per mission. And the rockets have to be scheduled. They have to be tested. They normally have astronauts which have to be trained for many years. And we have loss of life because of this. I mean, we’ve had some explosions where unfortunately shuttles didn’t make it and exploded in the air whether it be entry or taking off. And sad, you know, for the astronauts that lost their lives, but this could be avoided in the future with a space elevator. Now, of course, people like Elon Musk with SpaceX are trying to mitigate that risk by not only having autonomous shuttles and crafts that can take off by themselves and land by themselves but also reusing the rockets because we’ve seen videos online of his rockets, not only going into space, but then re entering the atmosphere slowing down and landing even in the middle of the ocean on a small landing pad. So the technology is definitely getting better. Thanks to companies like SpaceX. Still not perfect. We still need to schedule around good weather. We need to schedule because of the costs and the dangers of launching a spacecraft into the air and the powerful rockets and the fuel and the astronauts and everything that goes into launching a rocket.
Space elevator is going to be some sort of, you know, not device but some sort of room or building or vehicle that is going to be attached to a very strong and durable powerful tether. A line about an actual elevator right elevators have multiple cables attached to the tops of the elevators. From what I understand there’s anywhere between like four to eight cables per elevator, each one can hold the weight of the elevator in case one snaps. Elevator. Don’t worry if you hear a snap. There’s a lot of other cable holding you from plummeting to your death. Space elevator will probably be on a series of cables, maybe not even cables, maybe some sort of very powerful, you know, some sort of molecular metal of some kind super indestructible. And this cutter will be attached to somewhere on Earth and it will be attached to somewhere in space whether it’s a large satellite or maybe even to the moon and the elevator will be able to travel whether using electromagnets or wheels or something some sort of friction or gears or some sort of movement that will make the space elevator go up. And go down. Whether it’s the cables are moving or like you know with momentum, or again some sort of electrical system or powered system that’s moving the elevator. But here’s the thing. You get in the elevator and you can now go up this tether into space. Maybe it takes 30 minutes, maybe it takes an hour. But you can come back down. You can go back up, you can go back down and you can go back up over and over and over again all day long. You don’t have to really schedule it. You don’t really need astronauts. You don’t have to worry about the dangers of fuel and explosions. The cost is going to be negligible.
And you were talking about maybe one one way up then you know one way up and down like so basically one trip, say you’re sending supplies to the International Space Station. Okay? That one trip might cost you the same as a commercial airplane fare of $100. Once they have this kind of thing built. The sad fact is, if NASA and SpaceX and other organizations had just focused on building a space elevator going back 50, 60, 70 years, we would have had one by now because we do have the technology to build one. But for some reason, all these organizations which just didn’t focus on it, they focused on the Space Race using ships. Maybe it was because that’s easier to do. Maybe the elevator is more difficult to do. But there is no debate on the difference between a space elevator being extremely more safe, more reasonably priced. And also the usability factor. The fact that you can use it over and over and over again over and over and over. Again. I mean, it’s just, it’s a no brainer. The next piece in space elevators that most people probably don’t even think about is access to space. So this means that before only a certain few people like Jeff Bezos or Amazon were able to launch a rocket, Elon Musk was able to launch a rocket NASA can launch rockets, but like not a lot of other businesses or companies or even countries can launch into space.
But if we have space elevators and anybody can get into space, now any country or business can launch a satellite because you just take the elevator up, put the satellite into space, and come back down. Easy peasy. This also means that resources will be available. Now look what happened during the pandemic supply chain issues. Chip shortages, metal shortages. It’s a known fact asteroids that are either near Earth or coming to earth or in Earth’s orbit, maybe even on the moon. There are minerals and metals that are worth trillions of dollars, gold and platinum and titanium and nickel and iron. These things are abundant in the universe. We just don’t have access to them. If we can take a space elevator into space, and extract minerals very easily and quickly. I mean, look at that, that’s going to be a game changer. We’re going to be able to take the next step in the evolution of mankind. Simply because of access.
And I’m going to give you an analogy. Hundreds of years ago or 1000s of years ago, humans had to walk from place to place, maybe ride a horse from place to place. But eventually they made ships, ships gave them access to the ocean, to other continents to be able to barter and trade and learn new civilizations and learn new technologies. Eventually the car and the train and these things now enabled access to deliver goods quicker. Be able to be in business and be able to sell oil and clothing and things to other cities and other countries. Access has made our world interconnected and extremely accessible. So it’s the same thing in space. Imagine the universe is a bigger version of our world. Every galaxy and every planet is like a city or a country. We will have access to the moon to Mars to other planets much easier because we can get there a lot easier. Let’s just say for example, we can make a space elevator from here to the moon. We can go back and forth to the moon and build a base on the Moon. Maybe we can live on the moon. We can work on the moon because let’s face it Earth is falling apart. We have too many people and not enough resources. Climate change is a problem. Eventually we’re going to have to be a multiplanetary species, we’re going to have to live in other galaxies throughout the universe. Now, let’s go to the future here.
This is future tech. Let’s talk about how we have a space elevator from say the moon to Mars or Earth to Mars. Current estimates are that it takes about eight months to get to Mars. That’s a long it’s basically a year right so astronauts have to be in a ship for eight months to get to Mars. And things can go wrong. Not only that, but because of the way that the Earth and Mars and all the orbits of the planets and how Mars is further away at some point. There’s only a good window of time every 26 months that we can launch tickets Mars 26 months let’s just say it’s two years two years. Every two years we can launch from Mars and it takes eight months to get there. With a space elevator, you forget about the 26 months, the two years that you have to wait for because you can go every day. You can send an elevator to Mars every day on a tether. And it’ll only take about two months to get there on a tether on an elevator. Because gravity won’t matter. You don’t have to launch a rocket. Once you’re in space, there’s no gravity and the elevator can maybe go faster.
Who knows but the point is maybe we can get the Moore’s in a week. Eventually. Maybe we can make an elevator fast enough to get there really quick. I mean, let’s put it this way. 26 months and eight months down to daily departures in two months. I’m sold. Why are we not building space elevators today? Now there’s a lot of other things that space elevators will do for humanity. But I’m going to leave you guys with one last piece and I’m going to go back to the fact that it costs roughly 60 cents per pound for a space elevator to bring supplies to space. 63 cents per pound. Okay? Not a lot of money. To send 100 pounds costs $60 Roughly, to send a human for example to space that’s very, very, very cheap. What does that mean? Accessibility. Think about it this way. There’s so many different things that this does. Being in space has helped humans eat new technologies, satellites. Yes, technology, smart devices and help us understand how we can survive on other planets.
There are some other pieces of space that we’re not really taking into account. For example, the sun or star is in space. There are no clouds in space. The amount of solar radiation that is in space is tremendous. Imagine if we had a space elevator or multiple space elevators so that we can easily get up there and bring solar panels with, you know, some sort of satellite or maybe space stations or whatnot that had just solar arrays. And all day long. The solar arrays were capturing the radiation and then somehow transmitting it back to earth as radiation and converting it into energy. We would have literal free energy on the entire planet. Just because we have space elevators with the ability to bring us that energy and it goes without saying accessibility brings innovation, putting us into space and letting us explore universes. For example, Space Elevators now will allow us to bring supplies and spaceship parts. We can build massive, massive spaceships in space or on the Moon where around the moon or around the earth, not on Earth, and then having to take off with fuel potentially blowing up or having a problem. We can now build massive massive ships like you see in the movies in space using these elevators by bringing up the parts over and over again all day long, bringing up parts and modularly putting it together.
These ships will be able to hold 5000 people or more. They will be able to hold small town small communities and we can then travel to another planet or another universe Mars for example, and colonize it properly. Because we have the accessibility. I mean, everything will change. Once we have a space elevator. I hope that we eventually have one so that we can all get into space before the end of days. And I’m curious to know what other applications you might think of that space elevators will give us that I might not have mentioned because there’s so many more that I’m sure I could have covered. So let me know what you think about space elevators. What they can do for humanity. Put it all in the comments. I’ll answer it . I’m really curious to hear what you come up with. And as always, I will see you in next week’s episode.
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