The Great Space Elevator

There are startups and then there are startups. Web 2.0 is all fine and dandy and I love AJAX as much as the next person but let's face it, as amazing as Flickr, del.icio.us and MeasureMap are, they and the rest of the new web apps combined and taken to the tenth power aren't even half as sexy as the Space Elevator. The what? Business 2.0's Georgia Flight explains:

Earth is constantly spinning. So if you attach a counterweight to it with a cable, and put it far enough away—62,000 miles—the cable will be held taut by the force of the planet's rotation, just as if you spun around while holding a ball on a string. And if you've got a taut cable, you've got the makings of an elevator.

As strange as that sounds—push the "Up" button, climb in, and soar off into weightless bliss—don't be surprised if it happens. The space elevator is where the PC was in the 1960s: The theory is solid, the materials exist, and people in garages are starting to tinker with the next step. Two Seattle startups are competing to build the elevator. Both believe they can do it within 15 years at a cost of $10 billion. NASA and China's space agency are eager to help make it happen.

And no wonder: A working elevator would reduce the cost of launching anything into space by roughly 98 percent.

98 percent! Biggest discount EVER? So of course the US wants it, China wants it and so does Japan. If and when it does become reality, the country that gets a Space Elevator first will likely have a stranglehold on space commerce for a long time.

The 62,000-Mile Elevator Ride [Business 2.0]
The Space Elevator Reference Blog
Space Elevator [Wikipedia]
"How Space Elevators Will Work" [Howstuffworks]