Space Shuttle has taken off (well most of it) but the future for our advance into space is not rockets - it is the 'space lift' (or 'elevator' if you speak American).
First conceived of over 30 years ago by the science fiction writer Sir Arthur C. Clarke, the space lift is now a serious possibility.
A development company, 'Liftport' plans to build a 'lift' using a carbon nanotube stretching 62,000 miles into space. The first 'LiftPort Space Elevator' will be anchored to an offshore sea platform near the equator in the Pacific Ocean, and to a small man-made counterweight in space.
Above: A prototype 'space lift'; 'Jack and the Steel Stalk'.
The spacelift will revolutionise our relationship with space, enabling massive payloads to be 'imported' and 'exported' between earth and space.
WASTE TO SPACE?
Because the space lifts could carry much bigger pay loads than any rocket, one important function could be to help rid the planet of toxic waste. This may possibly include radioactive waste from nuclear power stations which would then be shot into the Sun. The need to deal with nuclear waste with a 'half-life' of up to 250,000 years is the main problems with the use of nuclear power (apart from serious accidents with the potential to kill millions of people). Environmentalists currently fear the 'nuclear trains' which carry dangerous radioactive waste through London and across Britain to be reprocessed. So one day 'Friends of the Universe', may be protesting against 'nuclear lifts'.
Above: The Space Lift: how many floors to the Moon?
• The Lift Port Group have recently published a book about their plans: 'LiftPort - The Space Elevator: Opening Space to Everyone.'
• There is a lot more information at the 'Space Elevator Reference' website