Hey NASA, we’re going to call it the Vancouver-levator. (or how Vancouver’s geeks and visionaries will build the space elevator that allows us to leap into the solar system.)



Space Elevator illustration by Kenn Brown and Chris Wren from Mondolithic
(Vancouver’s own brilliant illustrators with a global fan base!)

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Steven Jones, the leader of the UBC Snowstar team  – a team of UBC students who are entering the NASA Beam Power and Tether Strength Challenges – two contests that are used to encourage research and development in technologies that could be used to build a space elevator.

The challenges are held during the Elevator Games in Mountain View California by the Spaceward Foundation; a group dedicated the development of a Space Elevator. The technologies that are required to win the competitions will have many uses and one of those will be in the construction of a long cable in stable geosynchronous orbit around the earth that will allow for equipment and people to be transported to space on a space elevator at a fraction of the current cost. In the 2006 NASA Beam Power Challenge the team has to provide a robot that is at least 10kg and capable of climbing a 60 m cable in 60 seconds but it can not have any batteries or other stored energy on board. All of the power must be transmitted wirelessly from the ground by a beam source that the team also has to provide. In the 2006 Tether Strength Challenge teams must create a 2 gram cable that forms a continuous loop with a circumference of 2 meters and is stronger than the cable supplied by Spaceward that is allowed to weigh 3 grams. UBC Snowstar is one of the few teams in the world to have experience at the Elevator Games through their participation in 2005 and in the Beam Power competition they were given the only award at the competition: "Most Likely to Win in 2006". The New York Times just ran a great story which the Snowstar team uploaded onto their site in a PDF. If you are interested in helping Steve and his team by sponsoring them, please contact him directly at info@snowstar.ca.