The fact that nobody has ever won the 2007 Space Elevator Games - which seeks to find the best elevator technology to easily shuttle supplies and people to and from a space station (or hotel) in orbit around Earth - did little to dampen the excitement and anticipation permeating the Davis County Event Center this weekend in Utah. Though they aren't required to build an actual space elevator, the competing teams have to build a strong tether or get a robot to mount a suspended ribbon.
The stakes in this year's competition, sponsored by the California-based Spaceward Foundation and supported by NASA, couldn't be higher: the prizes for both the tether and robot competition have been hiked to $500,000 each, from $200,000 last year.
"The call for a harder competition this year, in retrospect, was very good. They have advanced a lot faster than we have made the competition harder." said Ben Shelef, CEO of the Spaceward Foundation.
As part of the climber competition, the entrants have to get their robots to leap up a 100 m long ribbon, suspended from a crane, at a speed of about 2 m/s; because the robots need to be powered from the ground, many have turned to solar panels, microwaves or a combination of technologies. The Kansas City Space Pirates (seen in the included video) used a completely solar-powered climber to be one of the first teams to qualify.
For the tether competition, teams have to get a loop of material weighing less than 2 g and at least 2 m in circumference. It is then stretched to breaking point side-by-side with a tether made from a top-notch material (and not subject to the competition's restrictions) to see if it can outlast it. One entrant, MIT's Stephen Steiner, used a tether made out of carbon nanotubes - seen as the one material likely to make a rope both light and strong enough to get to outer space.
You can follow all the action (and see some more nice pics/videos) at Ted Semon's blog, "The Space Elevator Blog".
Via ::Nature: Space elevators: going up? (news website), ::The Space Elevator Blog: 2007 Space Elevator Games - (Entry 60) (blog)