can you think of having a space elevator where we press the button and it takes you to the Moon? while it seems to be some fantasy or a scene of a science fiction movie. But a team of astronomers came with an idea according to which we can make it possible with the current technology.
In a paper published in late August, astrophysicists Zephyr Penoyre and Emily Sandson of the University of Cambridge and Columbia University respectively, describe a method for the construction of a 322,000 kilometer-long (200,000 miles) cable anchored to the Moon and dangled across space into the Earth‘s gravitational field.
The trip to the moon would involve launching at the right height, synchronizing with the end of the space cable, using solar propulsion to move along the cable to Lagrange points (where there is zero gravity and no other physical interference), and slowing down to land in lunar orbit.
According to the scientists’ calculations, it would be possible to construct such a structure using existing technologies. The concept is “eminently plausible and may have been overlooked as a major step in the development of our capacity as a species to move within our solar system,” they said.
The benefit of a spaceline over a space elevator is that it would orbit Earth just once a month – because it would be attached to the Moon, not Earth – and that means less of a strain coming from centrifugal forces.
By hitting what’s known as the Lagrange point – where the gravitational forces of the Earth and Moon would come close to balancing each other out – the researchers think enough stability for operations can be achieved.
Details in their paper suggest that the cable could be about as thick as pencil lead and anchored on the moon with a budget estimated at billions of dollars. Though this might seem a hefty price tag, such a structure could save us a lot of funds — the scientists said that “it would reduce the fuel needed to reach the surface of the moon to a third of the current value.”
The complete paper is available here: https://arxiv.org/abs/1908.09339
But Bernard Foing, the executive director of the International Lunar Exploration Working Group at the European Space Agency, told that the issue was “very complex.” In terms of actually carrying out such a project, “a technical plan is still very premature, even if it’s an inspiring idea,” Foing said.