At the end of a 59,652-mile-long, carbon-nanotube cable, there would be a counterweight floating in space and anchoring the assembly connected to the ground terminal. Passengers would travel from terra firma to a spaceport research center equipped with residential facilities located 22,369 miles above the Earth’s surface.
As a fan of Science Fiction, space elevators sound absolutely amazing. But every time I read about them, my mind sees the cable breaking with one end floating off into space and then 10,000 miles of carbon-nanotube cable falling to earth pummelling the spaceport and the 500 or so miles around it.
What can be done to mitigate this risk? It seems to me like an overwhelming investment in something that could quickly fail.
(Image credit: NASA)