The first space elevator would be assembled “about 50 years after everyone quits laughing"
Arthur C. Clarke (Science Fiction Author)
The space elevator concept was considered a science fiction and laughed at by many. But, today there has been some serious theories revolving around the construction of a “Sky Railroad" that can send payloads straight up for thousands of miles and help to promote space tourism. Before delving deep into the theory of how does the space elevator work, let's go back in time to understand the roots of this innovative concept.
Ancient sacred Hindu texts presented a rough idea of a space elevator. Epics like the Ramayana reveal an account of Ravana’s dream to build a “ladder" from his earthly kingdom to the Moon’s surface. The Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovski conceptualized the building of a “castle" orbiting Earth in geosynchronous orbit. The year was 1895 when Konstantin envisioned the Eiffel Tower in Paris attached to the “castle" with a spindle shaped thread.
The space elevator theory popped up again after 65 years when a Leningrad engineer named Yuri Artsutanov penned the first contemporary notions about space elevators. But, it was Arthur C. Clarke’s “Fountain of Paradise" that introduced this concept to a broader audience. His 1978 novel narrates the construction of a space elevator on a mythical Taprobane island (a fictional island with geographical characteristics similar to Sri Lanka).
Arthur C. Clarke’s space elevator concept was taken lightly by mainstream space technology geniuses as a mere science-fiction story. But, today space agencies like NASA and private enterprises like the Japan Space Elevator Association are thinking to build a “railroad to space" for a celestial joyride.
(Image, Right: Arthur C. Clarke, who envisioned communications satellites orbiting the earth in fixed positions. Will his space elevator concept ever turn into reality? Photo by Amy Marash Courtesy: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Clarke_sm.jpg )