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Space elevators: 'First floor, deadly radiation!'


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Space elevators are touted as a novel and cheap way to get cargo, and possibly people, into space one day. So far, they have barely left the drawing board, but ultimately robots could climb a cable stretching 100,000 kilometres from Earth's surface into space.

But there is a hitch: humans might not survive thanks to the whopping dose of ionising radiation they would receive travelling through the core of the Van Allen radiation belts around Earth. These are two concentric rings of charged particles trapped by Earth's magnetic fields.

"They would die on the way through the radiation belts if they were unshielded," says Anders Jorgensen, author of a new study on the subject and a technical staff member at Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, US.

Space elevators had been planned to be anchored on an ocean platform near the equator, with the other end tied to a counterweight in space.

At the equator, the most dangerous part of the radiation belts extends from about 1000 to 20,000 kilometres in altitude. The region did not hurt the Apollo astronauts in the 1960s and 1970s because their rockets delivered them swiftly through it.

For a space elevator travelling at the current proposed speed of 200 kilometres per hour, however, passengers might spend half a week in the belts. That would hit them with 200 times the radiation experienced by the Apollo astronauts.

Source: New Scientist

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If I remember correctly, these things could generate their own electricity, too, as the cables are travelling through the magnetic field. I can see another problem if you're going up 100,000km, though. At 200 km/hr, you would have to spend 500 hours listening to elevator music. The mind boggles! Even if they solve the radiation problem, few would survive the trip.

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Don't get me started. This "technology" is fantasy at best and a boondoggle at worst. Someone told me they could develope, fund and implement a carbon fiber space elevator in ten years for a cost of $20 billion. That was 8 years ago, and although $20 billion remains unspent, hundreds of millions have and no significant advances have been put forth. I'm not hopeful.

The other argument that boils my blood is the Van Allen Radiation hoax. The radiation is indeed present, but the amount of "shielding" needed amounts to an extra pair of long johns. The thickness of the skin on the Apollo spacecraft, coupled with their velocity, is what protected the astronauts. Had they stalled within the belts somehow, the spacecraft would have been enough to spare them.

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I wont go into the whole pedantic 'invented' and 'discovered' thing, but I have to admit to being tempted to.

I dont know about being put off by 500 hours of listening to elevtor music, I think the big off-putting factor is the 500 hours bit. I dont think modern humans could withstand 500 hours of ANYTHING in a room sized space, and I'm including nudie prod games in this. They'd have to put you in suspended animation.

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I dont think modern humans could withstand 500 hours of ANYTHING in a room sized space, and I'm including nudie prod games in this. They'd have to put you in suspended animation.

Those elevator cars would need to be the size of a couple of Greyhound buses, but Shuttle astronauts and ISS astronauts spend longish periods in confined spaces, as do office workers in cubicle farms, and only go a little crazy.

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Everyone knows space elevators were show to be feasible by Roald Dahl!

:D:):(

Ahh..... the technical response.

Good one Richard.

Tom

PS - Hope you are getting better weather in London than I am up here - "carp" is the polite word for West Central Scotland's weather this Autumn. For West Central Scotland read "God's own Country" - just a pity he forgot to turn off the tap.

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Hi Tom, we had a clear night saturday after the storms had past and got to the clubs dark sky site, surprisingly dark considering how close it is to london. The T4 saw some action on the open clusters in auriga, love that spacewalk!

Clear skies,

Ahh yes ... the Nagler - you are a lucky man getting a clear dark sky. Enjoy

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  • 4 years later...

Are we nearly there yet?...

Are we nearly there yet?...

Are we nearly there yet?...

Are we nearly there yet?...

Are we nearly there yet?...

Are we nearly there yet?...

Are we nearly there yet?...

Are we nearly there yet?...

Are we nearly there yet?...

Are we nearly there yet?...

Are we nearly there yet?...

Are we nearly there yet?...

Are we nearly there yet?...

Are we nearly there yet?...

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500 hours is less than 3 weeks. Astronauts have spent much longer than that on space stations. However, as you say Warthog, all the pan pipe tunes would drive you crazy! Also, when you hit the button you could be waiting up to 1000 hours!

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