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. Clarke To Address Los Alamos Space-Elevator Conference

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Los Alamos - Sep 10, 2003
Sir Arthur C. Clarke, world-renowned science fiction author, will address the Second Annual Space Elevator Conference held Sept. 12-15 in Santa Fe. The event is co-sponsored by Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Institute for Scientific Research Inc. (ISR).

Clarke, the author of "2001: A Space Odyssey," "Fountains of Paradise" and many other novels, will open the conference with a live address via satellite at 8 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 13, from his home in Sri Lanka.

Clarke has included space elevator imagery in several of his novels and has long been a champion of this revolutionary means of space travel. The conference will bring together individuals and institutions interested in solving the scientific and engineering challenges inherent in constructing the world's first space elevator.

Said conference organizer Bryan E. Laubscher of the Los Alamos Space Instrumentation and System Engineering Group, "With the discovery of carbon nanotubes and their remarkable strength properties, the time for the space elevator is at hand."

"The promise of inexpensive access to space is so important to the human race that we are ready to meet these challenges head on. Viewed in one way, the space elevator will be the largest civil engineering project ever attempted," Laubscher said.

The conference is being held at the Santa Fe Radisson, beginning Sept. 12 with an evening reception and concluding Sept. 15. Media representatives are welcome to attend. Speakers at the conference will provide a historical perspective of the space elevator and its promise for future space activity. Facilitators will outline each area of technical challenge and discussion of solutions is encouraged through audience participation.

"The team that works out the technological solutions will encompass government and industry and represent a new level of teamwork not seen since the days of NASA's Apollo program," said Laubscher.

"It sounds a little far out at first, but with materials science advances such as nanotubes and other new materials, we are reaching the stage where this starts to look like real science, a real advance for space transport. And with the Los Alamos experience in both space and material science, it's a great opportunity for teamwork."

The space elevator is a revolutionary way of getting from Earth into space, a ribbon with one end attached to Earth on a floating platform located at the equator and the other end in space beyond geosynchronous orbit (35,800 km altitude).

The space elevator will potentially ferry satellites, spaceships and pieces of space stations into space using electric lifts clamped to the ribbon, serving as a means for commerce, scientific advancement and exploration.

"In direct analogy with the Transcontinental Railroad, in which construction began as soon as the last routes through the California mountains were scouted, I hope that the space elevator is begun as soon as the 100,000-km ribbon can be manufactured," said Laubscher.

"In order to be ready with the required technologies, those scientists and engineers interested in the space elevator must begin now to identify and solve the technical challenges involved in constructing and operating a space elevator. The Second Annual Space-Elevator Conference is being held to discuss these challenges and their solutions."

NASA's Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) granted funds to Dr. Bradley Edwards, ISR's director of research, to investigate the feasibility of designing and building a space elevator. Once relegated to the realm of science fiction, the space elevator is now the subject of scientific research by ISR. The discovery of carbon nanotubes and the ongoing development to implement them into a composite is the key to space elevator viability being achieved in the future.

Researchers estimate that a space elevator capable of lifting 5-ton payloads every day to low Earth orbits could be operational in 15 years. From this first orbit, the costs to go on the moon, Mars, Venus, or the asteroids would be reduced dramatically.

The first space elevator is projected to reduce lift costs immediately to $100 per pound, as compared to current launch costs of $10,000-$40,000 per pound, depending upon destination and choice of rocket-launch system. Additional and larger elevators, built utilizing the first, would allow large-scale manned and commercial activities in space and reduce lift costs even further.

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