Golden Age of Space Travel
By 2030, the key to reaching the new golden age of space travel will be developed—the material needed to make a 100,000 km (62,000 mile) rope.
Yes, you read that right. Rope.
According to a study recently published in New Space, “the material needed to have a 100,000 km rope will become real before 2030 and enable the creation of this low-cost access to space,” wrote Cathy W Swan, of SouthWest Analytic Network, Peter A Swan and John M Knapman, of the International Space Elevator Consortium, and David I Raitt, a scientist who worked at the ESA (European Space Agency).
Notably, the team asserts that such material would make it possible to launch people, satellites, and craft into geostationary orbit dramatically cheaper than any of the current methods. Oh, and also, space elevators.
Possibilities in the Future
Ultimately, the team clarifies that a space elevator would require a super-strong, flexible material that can be used to make the 100,000 km rope that would be necessary to make a true space elevator. It is a material that, currently, we don't have. But we will. And the scientists assert that such a material will become real before 2030.
Given these developments, the researchers behind the study think that the creation of space elevators will be viable roughly around this same time-frame.
Notably, it is actually the elevator that will make space travel more accessible. In their work, the team asserts that the technology would make commercial and government missions more feasible, and pave the way for the development of space colonies, as we could get material and supplies to space much cheaper using such an elevator.
As a humorous aside, there really is something to this, if you think about it. Currently, failure estimates for rocket launches are between 1 and 3% (depending on the kind of launch being attempted and the intended destination). However, to date, we haven't had any failures with space elevators, meaning that our failure rate is rather close to 0% when it comes to that technology.
Of course, we also haven't really tried to build a space elevator yet...the devil is always in the details.
Jokes aside, ultimately, this is an idea that several scientists have been trying to realize since 1895 (though it has existed as mostly just science fiction for most of this time). We have written a number of articles on the feasibility of this tech in the past, and in short, it won't be easy. In fact, saying it's merely "not easy" is a rather large understatement.
But having the necessary technology will at least make the idea viable (even if it's still rather impractical), and it looks like we may have viable tech for the enterprise within a decade or so. And at least that's something.