A Canadian space tech company has just answered the call of a million sci-fi geeks with its latest invention. Looking like something straight out of Star Trek, Thoth Technology's Futuristic "space elevator" was awarded a patent just weeks ago, giving astronauts the ability to more cost-effectively make their way to the upper stratosphere for subsequent space flights. It's a huge development in the race to the skies.
"Astronauts would ascend to 20 km by electrical elevator," explained Thoth inventor Dr. Brendan Quine in a press statement. "From the top of the tower, space planes will launch in a single stage to orbit, returning to the top of the tower for refueling and reflight." Thoth CEO Caroline Roberts called the development the beginning of a "new era of space transportation," given the elevator's eventual capabilities. "Landing on a barge at sea level is a great demonstration," said Roberts, remarking on fellow tech company Space X's new self-controlled, re-usable rockets, which launch and land on small pads in the ocean. "Landing at 12 miles above sea level will make space flight more like taking a passenger jet."
It's a tall order for any company — literally. Standing 20 times higher than most current structures, the company said it hopes to one day utilize the towers "for wind-energy generation, communications and tourism."
The elevator service itself will be pneumatically pressurized and "actively guided" over its base before it launches astronauts up into the skies. If that sounds far-fetched, don't worry. You're not the only one who was skeptical at the idea when it was first introduced.
"This [space elevator concept] is extremely complicated," said Space X founder Elon Musk to a conference crowd at MIT in October 2014. "I don't think it's really realistic to have a space elevator. ... A bridge from L.A. to Tokyo [would be easier]." This is coming from the same man who wants to land giant, remote-controlled rockets on tiny platforms out at sea and hopes to one day shoot a passenger-pod from San Francisco to Los Angeles at the speed of 760 miles per hour. (Don't forget to put on your seatbelt.)
Fast forward two years, and Musk is likely eating his own words and wishing he had thought of Thoth's design first. Of course, the space elevator still needs to be built and tested, and Musk's suggestion of a trans-Pacific bridge might actually turn out to indeed be more feasible than the ingenious space elevator. But you can't fault the company for trying.
"[This elevator] technology offers an exciting new way to access space using completely reusable hardware," said the Thoth group in a press release. "[It saves] more than 30 percent of the fuel of a conventional rocket." That's one short elevator ride for man, one giant leap for anyone who's hoping to someday take a quick trip to the moon.
Image: Thoth Technology, Inc.