|Cricket: isn't that exactly what Arthur C. Clarke proposed? And he was serious as I recall... though now that I look at wiki about it, he was far from the first guy to have the notion... amazingly, a group claims that they could have one operational in 2014... with some pretty big "ifs":|
"A space elevator is a proposed structure designed to transport material from a celestial body's surface into space. Many variants have been proposed, all of which involve traveling along a fixed structure instead of using rocket powered space launch. The concept most often refers to a structure that reaches from the surface of the Earth on or near the equator to geostationary orbit (GSO) and a counter-mass beyond.
The concept of a space elevator dates back to 1895 when Konstantin Tsiolkovsky proposed a free-standing "Tsiolkovsky" tower reaching from the surface of Earth to geostationary orbit.
Most recent discussions focus on tensile structures (specifically, tethers) reaching from geostationary orbit to the ground. This structure would be held in tension between Earth and the counterweight in space like a guitar string held taut.
Space elevators have also sometimes been referred to as beanstalks, space bridges, space lifts, space ladders, skyhooks, orbital towers, or orbital elevators.
Current (2009) technology is not capable of manufacturing practical engineering materials that are sufficiently strong and light to build an Earth based space elevator. This is because the total mass of conventional materials needed to construct such a structure would be far too great.
However, recent conceptualizations for a space elevator are notable in their plans to use carbon nanotube-based materials as the tensile element in the tether design, since the measured strength of microscopic carbon nanotubes appears great enough to make this theoretically possible. Current technology could produce elevators for locations in the solar system with a weaker gravitational field, such as Mars.
This concept, also called an orbital space elevator, geostationary orbital tether, or a beanstalk, is a subset of the skyhook concept, and is what people normally think of when the phrase 'space elevator' is used (although there are variants).
Construction would be a vast project: a tether would have to be built of a material that could endure tremendous stress while also being light-weight, cost-effective, and manufacturable in great quantities. Materials currently available do not meet these requirements, although carbon nanotube technology shows great promise. A considerable number of other novel engineering problems would also have to be solved to make a space elevator practical.
Not all problems regarding feasibility have yet been addressed. Nevertheless, the LiftPort Group stated in 2002 that by developing the technology, the first space elevator could be operational by 2014."