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How much gravity could a space elevator survive?

  1. Nov 30, 2014 #1
    No matter how strong and how light the materials are, it seems that a space elevator is an insurmountable engineering challenge on Earth under 1G of gravity. However that is because the gravity on Earth is too much for a space elevator to survive, given a somewhat modest estimation of technological advancement and no massive paradigm-shifting advances in the materials that would be used in a space elevator (so probably something like Carbon Nanotubes), could a space elevator exist with Martian gravity? Lunar? How much gravity could a space elevator survive with?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 30, 2014 #2


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    Almost anything, if enough goes into building it. That's like asking how high a skyscraper can be built.
  4. Nov 30, 2014 #3
    It was my impression that at least under our current understanding of engineering, a space elevator would be impossible with Earth gravity?
  5. Nov 30, 2014 #4


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    You're the first person that I've ever seen express that.
    As far as I know, designs have been in the works for years.
  6. Nov 30, 2014 #5
    Well for starters, a quick google search brings up this which says more-or-less what I'm talking about.
  7. Nov 30, 2014 #6


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    If you can handle a variable width over the length of the space elevator, even current materials would allow a space elevator on earth - but it would be very thin at the surface and extremely thick higher up, which makes its mass unreasonably high and gives some other additional problems.
    For a fixed width, there is no material that could be used for a space elevator on earth right now.

    Other bodies are much easier - it is expected that a lunar space elevator could be built with materials available today, with a single rocket launch from earth to deploy the cable. It would have to be longer (more than 60 000 km), but the forces are significantly smaller.

    Mars is also significantly easier (just a bit more challenging than the moon), but you would have to carry the cable to mars first.
  8. Nov 30, 2014 #7
    Interesting, that's very helpful. :)
  9. Dec 8, 2014 #8
    All I know about space elevators I learned from Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy. He describes it with intricate detail. Everything from how to build one, the materials to use, length, recommended location, etc.

    I think building one on Mars is feasible. But it would require an enormous amount of carbon nano-tube material. The material is mined from a captured asteroid that is placed in a geosynchronous orbit around mars. Then the cable would be built and lowered gradually until it touches down on Mars' surface. According to this http://kimstanleyrobinson.info/w/index.php5?title=Space_elevator [Broken] "the cable was 35,000 km long and 10 meters thick, weighing 6 billion tons".
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
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