LaserMotive’s photovoltaic-powered machine became the first in the three-year history of NASA’s space elevator contest to climb a 900m-long ribbon, securing a prize of $US900,000. However, they fell short of the $US2 million grand prize.
For that, they would have had to ascend the ribbon with an average speed of 18km/h. They didn’t quite reach that goal but it appears that we are finally making real progress on a concept first proposed in 1895. What’s more, the ground laser that was used to charge the photovoltaic cells used half the power than their previous model with far better results. This year’s contest has not concluded, and there is the possibility that another team could equal or surpass LaserMotive’s results. But at the very least there is reason to believe that the idea of an elevator that reaches space might not be so far-fetched after all.