Ronald Brak

Because not everyone can be normal.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Robot Climbers – What we do when we can’t do what needs to be done.

Apparently there is a contest to see who can make the best robotic climber for a space elevator. It sounds like the sort of project that would be a lot of fun to work on. However, call me picky, but isn’t this a bit premature? I realize I probably sound like a killjoy here, but there doesn’t seem to be much point in building a robotic climber unless we know we can manufacture the ultra-strong cable a space elevator requires. We don’t even know if it is possible to make a material that is strong enough, can survive prolonged exposure to space, and which will be economical to use. The climbers seem like a straight-forward engineering challenge. Surely work on them could have waited the first samples of material suitable to build the cable were produced in a lab? Perhaps I’m just hopelessly cynical but it seems a little bit suspicious to me. The contest looks designed so that someone can say, “Look! We’ve already perfected the climber and the energy beaming system! We’re halfway there! Now just give us funding to complete the next step.” Unfortunately we currently don’t know if the next step will ever be feasible.

Having a contest to develop a suitable cable material first seems a lot more logical.


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