- Two astronomers from University of Cambridge and University of Columbia have proposed a plan as an alternative for an elevator between the moon and Earth.
- According to their study, existing materials such as Zylon, a polymer carbon, would allow us to build a tower or cable between the moon and Earth.
- The researchers also suggested the cable could be the thickness of a pencil lead and could cost "billions" of dollars.
Have you ever thought about what it would be like if we could just hop in an elevator, press a button, and head up to the moon?
While it may seem like something straight out of science fiction, scientists have actually been studying how to make the complex idea a reality for years — and now it seems like a duo of astronomers, from University of Cambridge and the University of Columbia, may have what they think is a feasible alternative.
According to their study, existing materials such as Zylon, a polymer carbon, would allow us to build a tower or cable that would extend from the moon's surface into the Earth's geosynchronous orbit, rather than being anchored directly onto our own planet.
They say that the structure would be at a safe distance from the Earth, approximately 362,000 kilometers from the moon, to avoid contact with satellites.
The trip to the moon would involve a launch at the right height of orbit, synchronization with the end of the space cable, a journey made using solar propulsion along the cable through to Lagrange Points in the Earth-Moon System — where there is no gravity and no other physical interference — slowing down to land in lunar orbit.
According to their calculations, it would actually be possible to construct such a structure using current technologies.
The concept is "eminently plausible and may have been overlooked as a major step in the development of our capacity as a species to move within our solar system", according to the published study.
Details in the study suggest that the cable connecting the Earth and the moon would be the thickness of a pencil lead and could be anchored on the moon with a budget estimated at "billions" of dollars.
Although this might seem a hefty price tag, such a structure could save us a lot of funds — according to the scientists, "it would reduce the fuel needed to reach the surface of the moon to a third of the current value".
Executive director of International Lunar Exploration Working Group at European Space Agency (ESA), Bernard Foing, told Business Insider, however, that the issue is "very complex" and, in terms of actually carrying out such a project, "a technical plan is still very premature, even if it's an inspiring idea".
According to him, the construction of such a long structure would pose considerable problems for its balance on the one hand, but could also pose safety issues to other spacecraft, like satellites.
Compiled by Olalekan Adeleye