Why don’t we build a magnetic catapult first (space gun, mass driver)? The technology is much more accessible right now and the project could be scaled up, from a low-capacity prototype (let’s say, a 500kg “upper stage” with a 100kg payload). Getting rid of toxic rocket fuel would certainly help us lower the costs and environmental impacts of space exploration.
A mass driver with high-acceleration profile would be cheaper to build but unsuitable for transporting humans. A model with a more gentle acceleration profile could then be built for delicate cargo and humans.
As for a space elevator… if we could build a “non-solid” tether to maintain a capsule aligned, then we could use the “pulsed plasma” technology (laser bursts) to push the capsule up to a space “terminal” up there, or at least to the upper atmosphere.
Posted by hankpellissier on 05/09 at 12:11 PM
I like David’s last suggestion here: “Brain boosts. Smart pills. For everybody. (oh, please!) If we can get those, without major side effects, then maybe… just maybe… those stars.”