Here’s something to think about the next time you’re standing in the lobby of a building waiting, like, forever for an elevator to take you to the third floor: a Canadian-based company called Thoth Technology has been granted U.S. and U.K. patents for a space elevator.*
The proposed “ThothX Tower” would be a freestanding piece of architecture stabilized by gyroscopic and active control machinery so that it can reach 12.5 miles into the sky. That’s almost as high as the island of Manhattan is long, and with much less traffic.
The main purpose of the “pneumatically pressurized” elevator would be to reduce the cost of space travel by allowing astronauts to take off from 12.5 miles in space rather than from the ground. Brendan Quine, the inventor of the tower, said, “Part of the limitation on space travel is the cost of getting to space. The tower could change space travel because professional rockets are very energy intensive and not very environmentally friendly.”
Doesn’t that statement make you want to know who’s out there now using unprofessional rockets?
Once built, the tower would also likely be used to generate wind energy, host communications technology and attract space tourists.
“Landing at 12 miles above sea level will make space flight more like taking a passenger jet,” said Thoth Technology President and CEO, Caroline Roberts.
Well, okay. I have some questions about all this:
- Where the hell are they planning to build this thing? Wherever they do it, you can bet someone will be complaining about it obstructing their view.
- Will riding in this “pneumatically pressurized” elevator make you feel like a piece of mail getting sucked through tubes in a 1940’s office building? That’s what I think of when I think of “pneumatically pressurized” stuff.
- How awkward will it be standing in an elevator with other people for 12.5 miles? I mean, how long can you really gaze blankly at the numbers changing to avoid glancing at your companions?
- How long will the space elevator be in operation before somebody puts a revolving restaurant on top of it?
- What happens when the elevator gets stuck? Do you have to wait for them to launch a rocket to rescue you?
- Will this inevitably lead to yet another Die Hard movie?
- If this thing will make space flight “more like taking a passenger jet,” how much will they charge for checked luggage?
- Is anyone really going to feel comfortable being 12.5 miles up in a building that needs gyroscopic and active control machinery in order to stay upright? And if that machinery breaks down, who will be responsible for yelling “timber!”?
- Will there be one of those vertical drop rides like The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney World?
- Is it 12.5 miles high just so they could avoid having a 13th floor?
- Will every city want one of these, just like they all have those friggin’ giant Ferris wheels now?
- Will it be an express elevator? Because, otherwise, life’s too short.
There’s one more obvious question that I haven’t bothered to list above: How long will it be before religious zealots start talking about the Tower of Babel and the end of the world?
I didn’t ask that question because they already have.
See you soon.
*I would think that the U.K. patent is actually for a space lift.