Elevator rides are fun to begin with, especially when you jump right when it’s slowing down and you fly up higher than usual. But how would you like to take an elevator into space? Scientists think it may be possible. Basically it would use a very long rope attached to the ground here on Earth, with a “counterweight” of over 100,000 pounds at the other end way up in space. That weight would keep the rope tight because as Earth spins, it would sling the weight around, just like when you twirl a yo-yo around your head and the string stays tight. The counterweight would circle Earth in “geostationary orbit,” meaning it would stay above the same spot on Earth so you don’t have a crazy elevator ride on an angle. It all depends on finding a strong enough material for that cable – but as soon as we do, we’re pressing Up for the next ride.
Wee ones: If someday we build 4 space elevators, then 1 goes out of service for repairs, how many elevators are left running?
Little kids: The super-strong cable for the space elevator would be about 24,000 miles long. To compare, Earth is about 25,000 miles around. How many miles longer would the cable have to be to wrap all the way around Earth? (Hint: just think in chunks of a thousand.) Bonus: How much cable would you need to build 2 elevators?
Big kids: 100,000 pounds is a lot of weight. If a big car weighs about 4,000 pounds, how many cars would you have to strap together in space as the counterweight? Bonus: If the space elevator travels 240 miles an hour, how long would it take you to ride the 24,000 miles from the ground up to the top in space?
Wee ones: 3 elevators left.
Little kids: 1,000 miles longer (1 thousand). Bonus: 48,000 miles (48 thousand).
Big kids: 25 cars. Bonus: 100 hours.