Sending back humans to the lunar surface via rockets does not come cheap. That is why scientists are looking for alternative ways of traveling 'to the moon and back,' which led them to the idea of building a lunar elevator. With a few billion dollars, they see it as a cost-effective and, probably, environment-friendly way for space travel.
However, could this idea be possible and feasible for future Moon travel? What is a lunar elevator, and how will scientists make this idea possible?
Lunar Elevator for Future Moon Travel
A 2019 study titled "The Spaceline: a Practical Space Elevator Alternative Achievable With Current Technology," published in Semantic Scholar, suggests that a lunar elevator could be the answer to future Moon travel.
It describes a cable anchored to the lunar surface that stretchers 250,000 miles (400,000 kilometers), although it will not be directly attached to Earth because of the relative motions of both the planet and the Moon. Researchers of the study said that this project is doable with a few billion U.S. dollars.
As Science Focus reported, the cable will be thinner than a pencil and weighs about 40 tons. The lunar elevator would not have to be connected to Earth, stopping shyly at the surface, unlike the space elevator.
Additionally, the cable could be made from existing materials, such as Kevlar, since the Moon has no atmosphere. That means there is no need for super-strong materials for the space elevator.
Moreover, China is also planning to build a Sky Ladder that will send a spacecraft up on an elevator from the Earth's surface to a space station before flying off towards the Moon, where it will meet another elevator that will bring it down to the lunar surface.
Lunar Elevator Cheaper Than Rockets
The idea of building space elevators has been around for more than a century, and it might be possible in the future to keep costs down and sky-high profits.
A NASA fact sheet says that the high cost of space transportation coupled with unreliability limits the dreams of venturing space to realize a promise of a better life on Earth.
A paper titled "The Cost of Reaching Orbit: Ground-Based Launch Systems," published in Space Policy, estimates that getting materials or supplies from Earth's surface to the International Space Station would cost about $10,000 per pound ($20,000 per kilogram).
However, Business Insider reported that experts estimated that a well-designed elevator would cut that cost to as low as $100 per kilogram. They calculated that even if it would cost around $1,000 per kilogram, that would only be roughly 5% of the current cost of sending supplies to space.
Furthermore, experts say that the space elevator can be built with existing technology and would considerably costs from $1 billion to almost $90 billion. More so, an analysis of three different designs showed that the lunar elevator could also be designed to make it environment-friendly.
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