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NASA not interested in Space Elevators

As covered on the Space Elevator Blog, NASA Centennial Challenges staffer Ken Davidian stated on the February 11th edition of Dr. David Livingston's podcast The Space Show, "NASA's not interested in space elevators" and only sees the Space Elevator Games as a means to develop technologies.

Personally I'm disappointed to hear this but not surprised. NASA's a rocket culture and, barring some cataclysmic culture shock, always will be (IMHO).

I think the SE will be to space what the PC was/is to computing. IBM only released the design for the PC after they decided it was a 'toy'. The 'big iron' culture (of the time) led them astray. Sound familiar?

Liftport's Brian ("Kilroy") Dunbar comments to the effect that this is as it should be and NASA should leapfrog space elevator development efforts by stepping out of the "Space Truck business and worry about exploration and R&D" is a sensible and plausible sentiment. My problem with that is that NASA is the big money pipeline.

You heard it here first. Carbon nanotubes won't be the factor delaying SE construction - it will be money, money and more money. The kind of money only governments can afford to invest.

The purse-string holders in the world's various governments are using to listening to presentations they don't understand then doling out galaxy-sized budgets to their respective space agencies. Everyone's comfortable with this.

If the space agencies a) don't take the space elevator seriously and b) fear SE projects will undercut their funding they will not only not support SE's, they will actively undermine them.

Setting up a new funding infrastructure may take longer than actually building the space elevator itself. Especially since there's likely to be more than one country involved.

Winning the hearts and minds of both the public and their governments is going to take longer and be harder than developing working carbon nanotube tethers or power-beaming systems. The scientists and engineers have it relatively easy because they will know when they are done.

The entrepreneurs, lawyers and lobbyists advocating for the space elevator will not only have to build the supporting legal and political infrastructure that will have to be in place before the money starts to flow, they will have to maintain it even after the space elevator is working.


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