If climbing a stairway to heaven sounds like too much hard work, then a conference of 70 scientists and engineers opening in Santa Fe, New Mexico, yesterday may offer hope of a more leisurely way into space. \nIn two days of discussions, the scientists aim to turn into a reality an ambition that has been around for at least a century: the creation of a space elevator that would deliver satellites, spacecraft and even people thousands of kilometers into space along a vertical track. \nEngineers say that recent advances in materials science -- particularly in the development of carbon nanotubes -- mean that such a system, which first gained widespread attention when the science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke described it in his 1979 novel Fountains of Paradise, is no longer pure science fiction. \nClarke -- who once said a space elevator would only be built "about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- was due to address the scientists at the Santa Fe conference yesterday by satellite link from his home in Sri Lanka. \nThe American space agency NASA is no longer laughing. It is putting several million US dollars into the project under its advanced concepts program. \nAt the heart of a space elevator would be a cable reaching up as far as 100,000km from the surface of the Earth. The earthbound end would be tethered to a base station, probably somewhere in the middle of the Pacific ocean. The other end would be attached to an orbiting object in space acting as a counterweight, the momentum of which would keep the cable taut and allow vehicles to climb up and down it. \nA space elevator would make rockets redundant by granting cheaper access to space. At about a third of the way along the cable -- 36,000km from Earth -- objects take a year to complete a full orbit. \nIf the cable's center of gravity remained at this height, the cable would remain vertical, as satellites placed at this height are geostationary, effectively hovering over the same spot on the ground. \nTo build a space elevator, such a geostationary satellite would be placed into orbit carrying the coiled-up cable. \nOne weighted end of the cable would then be dropped back towards Earth, while the other would be unreeled off into space. \nMechanical lifters could then climb up the cable from the ground, ferrying up satellites, space probes and eventually tourists. \nNo scientist has yet succeeded in making a material, which many expect will be made out of carbon nanotubes, strong but light enough to make the cable, but Rodney Andrews, a carbon nanotube expert from the University of Kentucky will tell the conference: "Until some of the basic science concerning how to connect nanotubes together and transfer load between them in a composite is understood it will remain elusive, but a lot of progress is being made."
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
LIFELONG LOSS: Jiro Hamasumi, who was not quite born when an atomic bomb hit Hiroshima, lost his father and other relatives, but said he thinks about his father daily As Japan marks 75 years since the devastating attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the last generation of nuclear bomb survivors is working to ensure their message lives on after them. The “hibakusha” — literally “person affected by the bomb” — have for decades been a powerful voice calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. There are an estimated 136,700 left, many of whom were infants or soon to be born at the time of the attacks. The average age of a survivor now is a little over 83, according to the Japanese Ministry of Health, lending an urgency as they share their testimonies