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(Ars Technica)   Bad: elevator cable breaks and car falls down. Worse: space elevator cable breaks and parts rain down death for thousands of miles. Whew: humanity doesn't have the materials - yet   (arstechnica.com) divider line
    More: Interesting, Potential energy, Energy, Satellite, International Space Station, Kinetic energy, Earth, Earth's atmosphere, Equator  
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1446 clicks; posted to STEM » on 22 Jan 2022 at 11:53 PM (16 weeks ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook



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2022-01-22 7:56:33 PM  
Already been covered

upload.wikimedia.orgView Full Size
 
2022-01-22 8:01:24 PM  
external-content.duckduckgo.comView Full Size
 
2022-01-22 8:06:19 PM  
The Foundation TV series had a pretty good primer on what would happen.
 
2022-01-22 8:08:05 PM  
Kim Stanley Robinson had one come down in Green Mars. Geostationary orbit is ~ 40,000 km so it would wrap around the world a couple times depending on where it breaks, and the last bit is coming in very spicy!
 
2022-01-22 8:34:14 PM  

GardenWeasel: The Foundation TV series had a pretty good primer on what would happen.


Yeah, the CGI was really good for that. You could tell exactly what was happening.
 
2022-01-22 8:53:37 PM  

I am Tom Joad's Complete Lack of Surprise: [external-content.duckduckgo.com image 474x739]


TLDR...because of this book, LOL.

/Gotta dig it out of storage and read it again.
 
2022-01-22 9:13:35 PM  
We will destroy ourselves long before we have the capability to build a space elevator.  Count on it.
 
2022-01-22 11:49:37 PM  

GardenWeasel: The Foundation TV series had a pretty good primer on what would happen.


As did the series 'Dread Empire's Fall' ('The Praxis') by Walter Jon Williams.  The trope has been in use for a while now, and we've been lucky enough to have several of the treatments be pretty good.

As for the real thing, I vote we start off small, and in a safe location.  Build one on Luna first, and if we think it's warranted, use what we learn there to build one on Mars.

Build one on Terra?  Hell, no, not until our technology reaches a point where we're goddamn sure we can ameliorate any effects of a collapse in real-time.
 
2022-01-22 11:57:55 PM  

Nicholas D. Wolfwood: GardenWeasel: The Foundation TV series had a pretty good primer on what would happen.

As did the series 'Dread Empire's Fall' ('The Praxis') by Walter Jon Williams.  The trope has been in use for a while now, and we've been lucky enough to have several of the treatments be pretty good.

As for the real thing, I vote we start off small, and in a safe location.  Build one on Luna first, and if we think it's warranted, use what we learn there to build one on Mars.

Build one on Terra?  Hell, no, not until our technology reaches a point where we're goddamn sure we can ameliorate any effects of a collapse in real-time.


encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.comView Full Size


Easy: just don't use cables!
 
2022-01-23 12:11:33 AM  
Never heard of Elisha Otis there, eh subby? He made his fortune after showing up to the 1853 New York World's Fair with an open-air elevator. He climbed in, got hoisted into the air, and had someone chop the rope holding the elevator up with an axe. The elevator dropped a couple feet, the safety brake he invented engaged, and with a little help from P.T. Barnum, Otis Elevators was born.

As long as you're on the inside, elevators are pretty damn safe.
 
2022-01-23 12:12:35 AM  
Space escalator temporarily stairway to heaven

We apologize for the guitar solo
 
2022-01-23 12:15:52 AM  

aleister_greynight: We will destroy ourselves long before we have the capability to build a space elevator.  Count on it.


That would be wonderful!  Unfortunately, humanity is too populous, too dispersed, and too resourceful for complete annihilation to be probable.  More likely it will heave and stumble through disaster after avoidable disaster, never completely succumbing, but never quite getting a space elevator.
 
2022-01-23 12:29:57 AM  
Just as a reminder that if the cable of your regular earthbound elevator breaks, there is a 99% chance that you will not drop far because several lifetimes worth of engineers were not all idiots.
There are multiple mechanisms to stop the car in all commercially available types and of even the most irresponsibly lax building codes require some means of stopping the car before it is likely to kill everyone in it. Their safety record is really remarkable given just how many trips are taken in elevators everyday on this planet.
 
2022-01-23 12:38:42 AM  

TheMysteriousStranger: Just as a reminder that if the cable of your regular earthbound elevator breaks, there is a 99% chance that you will not drop far because several lifetimes worth of engineers were not all idiots.
There are multiple mechanisms to stop the car in all commercially available types and of even the most irresponsibly lax building codes require some means of stopping the car before it is likely to kill everyone in it. Their safety record is really remarkable given just how many trips are taken in elevators everyday on this planet.


Otis is frequently credited with inventing an elevator because his name's on the company. This is a factoid.  Elevators are ancient technology.

What Otis really invented was a self braking mechanism. This was impressive engineering for a pug.
 
2022-01-23 1:02:31 AM  

IgG4: Kim Stanley Robinson had one come down in Green Mars. Geostationary orbit is ~ 40,000 km so it would wrap around the world a couple times depending on where it breaks, and the last bit is coming in very spicy!


I need to re-read that series.
 
2022-01-23 1:04:48 AM  

ryebread: Never heard of Elisha Otis there, eh subby? He made his fortune after showing up to the 1853 New York World's Fair with an open-air elevator. He climbed in, got hoisted into the air, and had someone chop the rope holding the elevator up with an axe. The elevator dropped a couple feet, the safety brake he invented engaged, and with a little help from P.T. Barnum, Otis Elevators was born.

As long as you're on the inside, elevators are pretty damn safe.


With one main caveat: no fire.  But in the absence of fire, I suspect the elevator is safer than the stairs.
 
2022-01-23 1:17:10 AM  

ryebread: Never heard of Elisha Otis there, eh subby? He made his fortune after showing up to the 1853 New York World's Fair with an open-air elevator. He climbed in, got hoisted into the air, and had someone chop the rope holding the elevator up with an axe. The elevator dropped a couple feet, the safety brake he invented engaged, and with a little help from P.T. Barnum, Otis Elevators was born.

As long as you're on the inside, elevators are pretty damn safe.


So extending one up to geosynchronous and beyond (since the *center of mass* has to be at geosync - more likely, geostationary) is no big deal?  It'll be proof against getting thumped by Russian satellites (or weapons) or the odd impact from passing asteroids / meteors / meteorites, right?

You would be fine being a passenger on board if / when that happened?  Or on the ground within ten degrees of latitude?
 
2022-01-23 1:19:42 AM  
Also while we can't make a cable strong enough for Earth, this is not true for all other bodies. We have materials strong for a lunar space elevator. Though obviously such a large project is still a long time off.

One Earth a skyhook might be a far more practical solution as it does not need to be any where near as long or strong. But I'd be surprised if such a system is not at least a half century away.
 
2022-01-23 1:21:16 AM  

Tom Marvolo Bombadil: aleister_greynight: We will destroy ourselves long before we have the capability to build a space elevator.  Count on it.

That would be wonderful!  Unfortunately, humanity is too populous, too dispersed, and too resourceful for complete annihilation to be probable.  More likely it will heave and stumble through disaster after avoidable disaster, never completely succumbing, but never quite getting a space elevator.


Just wait until we until we get our hands on usable quantities of antimatter.
 
2022-01-23 1:29:02 AM  

aleister_greynight: Tom Marvolo Bombadil: aleister_greynight: We will destroy ourselves long before we have the capability to build a space elevator.  Count on it.

That would be wonderful!  Unfortunately, humanity is too populous, too dispersed, and too resourceful for complete annihilation to be probable.  More likely it will heave and stumble through disaster after avoidable disaster, never completely succumbing, but never quite getting a space elevator.

Just wait until we until we get our hands on usable quantities of antimatter.


I'll be watching eagerly.

From a safe distance.

Might need the Hubble or the Webb to watch with...

/Alien planet tries to attack the orbiting USS Enterprise, or drag it down out of orbit, or some such.  How come Kirk *never* went to Landru or Vaal or whoever and said, "Let me explain to you what powers my ship..."?
 
2022-01-23 1:36:12 AM  

Nicholas D. Wolfwood: ryebread: Never heard of Elisha Otis there, eh subby? He made his fortune after showing up to the 1853 New York World's Fair with an open-air elevator. He climbed in, got hoisted into the air, and had someone chop the rope holding the elevator up with an axe. The elevator dropped a couple feet, the safety brake he invented engaged, and with a little help from P.T. Barnum, Otis Elevators was born.

As long as you're on the inside, elevators are pretty damn safe.

So extending one up to geosynchronous and beyond (since the *center of mass* has to be at geosync - more likely, geostationary) is no big deal?  It'll be proof against getting thumped by Russian satellites (or weapons) or the odd impact from passing asteroids / meteors / meteorites, right?

You would be fine being a passenger on board if / when that happened?  Or on the ground within ten degrees of latitude?


They were just commenting on the first part of the headline, because a cable breaking in an elevator isn't all that big of a deal, we've had the tech to prevent elevator cars from falling for 170 years.
 
2022-01-23 1:52:30 AM  

GardenWeasel: The Foundation TV series had a pretty good primer on what would happen.


I was really astonished at the seeming lack of safety measures employed at that station. did no one think of stabilization boosters on the shaft itself? I know the explanation for that is "Supreme Hubris by the empire" but farking sheesh, the did the engineers working on that thing not have any pride or anything?
 
2022-01-23 2:08:30 AM  

Smoking GNU: GardenWeasel: The Foundation TV series had a pretty good primer on what would happen.

I was really astonished at the seeming lack of safety measures employed at that station. did no one think of stabilization boosters on the shaft itself? I know the explanation for that is "Supreme Hubris by the empire" but farking sheesh, the did the engineers working on that thing not have any pride or anything?


I've actually met, "I don't need backups and failsafes, MY designs work properly!" assholes before.  If you got a whole crowd of those goons together...
 
2022-01-23 2:19:27 AM  

IgG4: Kim Stanley Robinson had one come down in Green Mars. Geostationary orbit is ~ 40,000 km so it would wrap around the world a couple times depending on where it breaks, and the last bit is coming in very spicy!


Was going to mention this, but I couldn't remember which of the books this occurred. Geosynchronous orbit from Mars is more like 17,000 km which is lower than Deimos' orbit. I vaguely remember it being tethered there, with the initial construction "dropping" from the moon's lower surface.
 
2022-01-23 2:27:03 AM  
Did an excellent treatment of this.
And dropping Phobos onto Mars.
And quadrupling the partial pressure of oxygen in the habitats and tossing in incendiaries

upload.wikimedia.orgView Full Size
 
2022-01-23 2:31:34 AM  

anuran: Did an excellent treatment of this.
And dropping Phobos onto Mars.
And quadrupling the partial pressure of oxygen in the habitats and tossing in incendiaries

[upload.wikimedia.org image 443x225]


Beat me by a minute.

They make slogging thru the three page long descriptions of Martian scenery and landscapes worth the effort... almost gave up because of his fondness for those.
 
2022-01-23 3:14:53 AM  

IgG4: Kim Stanley Robinson had one come down in Green Mars. Geostationary orbit is ~ 40,000 km so it would wrap around the world a couple times depending on where it breaks, and the last bit is coming in very spicy!


Not even once. Geostationary orbit is 35,786 km; and the Earth's equatorial circumference is 40,075 km.

(plus, much of it would likely burn up during re-entry)
 
2022-01-23 4:18:04 AM  
With present technologies and materials, we can do this on the Moon.

I am a tether fan. Using tethers and Earth Mars conveyors, we can avoid a lot of lost energy from re-entry and deceleration. We can do one for the Moon too.

Let's get started.
 
2022-01-23 4:22:17 AM  
I thought the prevailing technological knowledge was to do a sturdy cable made out of a bunch of twisted kevlar, and just have the elevator ride it up on some set of gears? Not to actually make some big ol' fatty structure out of it.
 
2022-01-23 4:22:55 AM  
oh ok i should read the article first is what you're saying
 
2022-01-23 6:25:34 AM  
Fark user imageView Full Size


64.media.tumblr.comView Full Size
 
2022-01-23 7:21:03 AM  

aleister_greynight: We will destroy ourselves long before we have the capability to build a space elevator.  Count on it.


Whitey thinks he's gonna go to the moon, when in reality he's going to die choking in his own excrement.
The moral of the story is: "Don't try to run away from home to avoid cleaning up your room."
 
2022-01-23 7:21:33 AM  
I Could Rule the World If I Could Only Get the Parts
Youtube mKXMXlX9pZM
 
2022-01-23 8:01:49 AM  

Nicholas D. Wolfwood: ryebread: Never heard of Elisha Otis there, eh subby? He made his fortune after showing up to the 1853 New York World's Fair with an open-air elevator. He climbed in, got hoisted into the air, and had someone chop the rope holding the elevator up with an axe. The elevator dropped a couple feet, the safety brake he invented engaged, and with a little help from P.T. Barnum, Otis Elevators was born.

As long as you're on the inside, elevators are pretty damn safe.

So extending one up to geosynchronous and beyond (since the *center of mass* has to be at geosync - more likely, geostationary) is no big deal?  It'll be proof against getting thumped by Russian satellites (or weapons) or the odd impact from passing asteroids / meteors / meteorites, right?

You would be fine being a passenger on board if / when that happened?  Or on the ground within ten degrees of latitude?


I would not worry about the Russian government intentionally bring it down as they won't escape the disaster it would cause. Now a religious nut bag wanting to bring on the apocalypse or a member of an organization like Babylon 5's Free Mars or The Expanse's OPA might be a different story. A skyhook falling won't be so apocalyptic so that is another argument for doing that instead.
 
2022-01-23 8:04:26 AM  

TheMysteriousStranger: Also while we can't make a cable strong enough for Earth, this is not true for all other bodies. We have materials strong for a lunar space elevator. Though obviously such a large project is still a long time off.

One Earth a skyhook might be a far more practical solution as it does not need to be any where near as long or strong. But I'd be surprised if such a system is not at least a half century away.


A half century away, for the next 3 centuries*
*See fusion power
 
2022-01-23 8:26:25 AM  
OK, first of all if an orbital tether breaks, most of the debris falls up. (Its being held down.) So all the crap goes into (various unstable) orbits and guarantees Kessler Syndrome, wiping out our entire LEO infrastructure.

But WE WILL NEVER BUILD IT!

Orbital tether's are a neat idea, and it could work on smaller things, moons asteroids, but an orbital tether on Earth would reach halfway to the moon. Its absolutely ludicrous.

OTOH, the Rotovator (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Momentum_exchange_tether#Rotovator ) uses the same materials and concepts, provides the same function, and would be less than 1% of the size and cost.

And we'll have the tech for the Rotovator 50 or a hundred years before the tether.
 
2022-01-23 8:30:53 AM  
What happens when a space elevator breaks? The same thing that happens when leprechauns kill a unicorn.

Whatever the fiction author wants to happen.
 
2022-01-23 9:06:03 AM  

mehhhhhh: TheMysteriousStranger: Also while we can't make a cable strong enough for Earth, this is not true for all other bodies. We have materials strong for a lunar space elevator. Though obviously such a large project is still a long time off.

One Earth a skyhook might be a far more practical solution as it does not need to be any where near as long or strong. But I'd be surprised if such a system is not at least a half century away.

A half century away, for the next 3 centuries*
*See fusion power


Actually no.

A skyhook is doable once there is some manufacturing capacity in space. The lack of space manufacturing is about the only real hurtle for developing a skyhook. Make the cable and it is a matter of putting Isaac Newton in the driver's seat, no magic tech required.  This is not the case for fusion where we really don't know how to do it sustainably were more energy is released than is used by the enormous complex of machinery. Claims of releasing more energy than used are always for a very tiny fraction of a second and/or omit energy usage for necessary parts of the apparatus.
 
2022-01-23 9:14:09 AM  

sleze: What happens when a space elevator breaks? The same thing that happens when leprechauns kill a unicorn.

Whatever the fiction author wants to happen.


If it is a fantasy story or using some sort of Clarke-tech, yes. If it is hard science fiction that gives more than lip service to not violating physical reality as actual physicists understand it, then the vast majority of outcomes are out.
 
2022-01-23 9:22:31 AM  

TheMysteriousStranger: mehhhhhh: TheMysteriousStranger: Also while we can't make a cable strong enough for Earth, this is not true for all other bodies. We have materials strong for a lunar space elevator. Though obviously such a large project is still a long time off.

One Earth a skyhook might be a far more practical solution as it does not need to be any where near as long or strong. But I'd be surprised if such a system is not at least a half century away.

A half century away, for the next 3 centuries*
*See fusion power

Actually no.

A skyhook is doable once there is some manufacturing capacity in space. The lack of space manufacturing is about the only real hurtle for developing a skyhook. Make the cable and it is a matter of putting Isaac Newton in the driver's seat, no magic tech required.  This is not the case for fusion where we really don't know how to do it sustainably were more energy is released than is used by the enormous complex of machinery. Claims of releasing more energy than used are always for a very tiny fraction of a second and/or omit energy usage for necessary parts of the apparatus.


You're mistaken. We don't have the materials yet.

Go read that wiki, the stress on the tether yanking a stationary payload to orbit, would be about 10 times what modern materials could take. You could cheat by not having a stationary payload, but a hypersonic jet or rocket.

If you can get the payload to mach 12, then a skyhook of modern materials could do it.

But materials are getting lighter and stronger every day. Once we get 10 times lighter and stronger than we are now, then we're there.
 
2022-01-23 9:23:36 AM  

anuran: Did an excellent treatment of this.
And dropping Phobos onto Mars.
And quadrupling the partial pressure of oxygen in the habitats and tossing in incendiaries

[upload.wikimedia.org image 443x225]


Does he cover how Mars' gravity field isn't big enough to support an Earth-like atmosphere, so any hope of terraforming it is doomed to fail?
 
2022-01-23 9:38:02 AM  

TheMysteriousStranger: mehhhhhh: TheMysteriousStranger: Also while we can't make a cable strong enough for Earth, this is not true for all other bodies. We have materials strong for a lunar space elevator. Though obviously such a large project is still a long time off.

One Earth a skyhook might be a far more practical solution as it does not need to be any where near as long or strong. But I'd be surprised if such a system is not at least a half century away.

A half century away, for the next 3 centuries*
*See fusion power

Actually no.

A skyhook is doable once there is some manufacturing capacity in space. The lack of space manufacturing is about the only real hurtle for developing a skyhook. Make the cable and it is a matter of putting Isaac Newton in the driver's seat, no magic tech required.  This is not the case for fusion where we really don't know how to do it sustainably were more energy is released than is used by the enormous complex of machinery. Claims of releasing more energy than used are always for a very tiny fraction of a second and/or omit energy usage for necessary parts of the apparatus.


encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.comView Full Size


Skyhook?
 
2022-01-23 9:41:58 AM  

Tyrone Slothrop: anuran: Did an excellent treatment of this.
And dropping Phobos onto Mars.
And quadrupling the partial pressure of oxygen in the habitats and tossing in incendiaries

[upload.wikimedia.org image 443x225]

Does he cover how Mars' gravity field isn't big enough to support an Earth-like atmosphere, so any hope of terraforming it is doomed to fail?


They reversed the polarity of Mars' gravitational fields, quadrupling the positronic force of the gravity.
 
2022-01-23 10:34:51 AM  

brainlordmesomorph: OK, first of all if an orbital tether breaks, most of the debris falls up. (Its being held down.) So all the crap goes into (various unstable) orbits and guarantees Kessler Syndrome, wiping out our entire LEO infrastructure.

But WE WILL NEVER BUILD IT!

Orbital tether's are a neat idea, and it could work on smaller things, moons asteroids, but an orbital tether on Earth would reach halfway to the moon. Its absolutely ludicrous.

OTOH, the Rotovator (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Momentum_exchange_tether#Rotovator ) uses the same materials and concepts, provides the same function, and would be less than 1% of the size and cost.

And we'll have the tech for the Rotovator 50 or a hundred years before the tether.


Space elevators have most of the structure below geostationary orbit, with a counterweight above it so you don't need to double it's length to have the center of mass at the proper altitude. So most of the cable is orbiting at below the required velocity to maintain orbit, which means that if the cable breaks it would, in fact, fall to the surface as it deorbits (assuming there's no whipping or other weirdness). The counterweight holds it up. The counterweight and parts of the cable above geosync would fall up, but we don't really care what happens above geosync anyway and there's a lot of space there, so that's fine.
 
2022-01-23 10:43:23 AM  

Tyrone Slothrop: anuran: Did an excellent treatment of this.
And dropping Phobos onto Mars.
And quadrupling the partial pressure of oxygen in the habitats and tossing in incendiaries

[upload.wikimedia.org image 443x225]

Does he cover how Mars' gravity field isn't big enough to support an Earth-like atmosphere, so any hope of terraforming it is doomed to fail?


The atmosphere would deplete on a time frame of tens or hundreds of thousands of years*. Setting it up in the first place is far more difficult than maintaining it. Loss is an issue for geological time frames

*don't remember my source for this off the top of my head, but currently it's losing about a millionth of its current oxygen per year, so if you assume atmosphere loss scales anywhere near directly with partial pressure, we've got time
 
2022-01-23 10:52:10 AM  
So just space stairs for now?
 
2022-01-23 10:57:51 AM  

New Farkin User Name: Space elevators have most of the structure below geostationary orbit, with a counterweight above it so you don't need to double it's length to have the center of mass at the proper altitude. So most of the cable is orbiting at below the required velocity to maintain orbit, which means that if the cable breaks it would, in fact, fall to the surface as it deorbits (assuming there's no whipping or other weirdness). The counterweight holds it up. The counterweight and parts of the cable above geosync would fall up, but we don't really care what happens above geosync anyway and there's a lot of space there, so that's fine.


Yes, below the break would it fall down, everything else would fall up.

But it wouldn't break in space, the catastrophe would be in the atmosphere, with weather, earthquakes, aircraft, or war, not up in space. So the vast amount of it goes up.

/guys in this thread are talking about the whole thing coming down like a tower.
 
2022-01-23 11:05:09 AM  
I read a story once where the tether wasn't attached to the Earth.

After one or two attached tether projects fail (due to unforeseen vibration problems) a third one is designed that just hangs in the air over the ocean.

You get to platform by helicopter and airship.
 
2022-01-23 11:16:16 AM  
Space Elevators and a fight for control of them? You want Celestial Being? That's how you get Celestial Being...
 
2022-01-23 11:26:32 AM  

Theaetetus: IgG4: Kim Stanley Robinson had one come down in Green Mars. Geostationary orbit is ~ 40,000 km so it would wrap around the world a couple times depending on where it breaks, and the last bit is coming in very spicy!

Not even once. Geostationary orbit is 35,786 km; and the Earth's equatorial circumference is 40,075 km.

(plus, much of it would likely burn up during re-entry)


I forgot how Tau works! lol
 
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