Sci-fi nerds, prepare to hide your boners. The Daily Mail in the UK has reported that a team of Japanese engineers is beginning plans for a muthafukin' space elevator. That's right, A SPACE ELEVATOR!
From the article:
If created, up to 30 passengers at a time would spend a week traveling a quarter of the way to the moon at speeds of 120 mph.
At the end, they would reach a space station, where they could get an astronaut’s view of the Earth with little or no training beforehand.
The plans, which are still all kinds of preliminary, call for construction of the elevator to be 22,000 miles high to be completed within 40 years at an estimated cost of £6 billion. It would consist of a ground-based station tethered to a geo-synchronously orbiting space station. The article says that the engineers would prefer to start in space and build down, rather than from the ground up.
However, any sci-fi nerds who are really on point should remember the climax of Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson, in which the space elevator constructed on Mars is brought down during a civil war. At 22,000 miles, the elevator cable would be nearly long enough to circle the earth at the equator. The potential for things to go disastrously wrong should frighten the bejeezus out of everyone.
Also, according to an article on io9 on the announcement, the materials the company plans to use are wildly dubious.
But still, a space elevator!