We all want to once try and escape Earth's gravity and explore what lies beyond the realms of the only planet where life exists. However, the cost space travel is skyrocketing already which is one of the major obstacles enthusiasts face while planning the great escape.
Though we have heard a lot about space elevators that can largely cut down the cost of space travel, they are currently not practically feasible due to lack of strong modern materials. However, researchers at Columbia University may be set to change that.
In study titled, “the Spaceline: A practical space elevator alternative achievable with current”, published on ArXiv, they suggest that a line or a traversable cable can be extended, anchored on the moon, to deep within Earth’s gravity, allowing free movement from the vicinity of Earth to the Moon’s surface.
The team of researchers said that with the help of current materials, a cable can be built that extends close to the height of geostationary orbit, allowing easy travel and construction between Earth and the moon. Once in place, it won’t require any advanced and complex rocket for astronauts to explore space and all they will need to do is reach the end of Spaceline.
“If we could design a steady cable, in tension, spanning a region of deep-space, we could move along it with solar power (or any other such source) alone. This can greatly decrease the cost and difficulty of spanning extraterrestrial distances - and is the reason why the concept of the space elevator is seen a major leap in reducing the cost, and increasing the access, of human space-travel”, states researchers.
Since these elevators come with their own set of drawbacks, researchers consider Spaceline to be a better option. This is because a cable would only hang onto Earth’s gravitational well, restricting it’s any need to be thick or massive.
Researchers further state that close to the gravitating bodies, there is a high possibility for micrometeoroids to accumulate which in turn can weaken or break the cable on any major impact.
But, the situation can be circumvented by distributing the tension in the cable across different strands. This could lead to breaking of one or more strands without greatly reducing the overall strength of the cable.
Moreover, these broken strands can further theoretically be repaired systematically, much like the small damages to a railway line.
Currently, the Spaceline project is in developing stage but researchers are optimistic that they can use it in the future for haulage of small loads to and from the surface of the moon, research centers, and optical telescopes at the Lagrange point base camp.