The Sky’s the Limit for this Patent
Or maybe it isn’t. Actually, Thoth Technology hopes to go further than that while bringing the ideas of science fiction to life.
One of the problems that still exists in space travel is its cost, and of that, a large chunk of the cost is devoted to the actual launch of the machine. Why would that be so expensive? Well, for starters, just like with an airplane, the act of getting a large piece of equipment to defy gravity takes a lot of energy, and a lot of energy means a lot of fuel for powerful engines. Once they have completed their task, though, historically these have simply fallen back to earth (hopefully in the middle of the ocean). Those fuel and engine costs all add up.
The space shuttle was an attempt to alleviate some of these costs, as a large part of the shuttle could be used over and over again. While the shuttles no doubt provided us with a great deal of information about space, they were obviously not without their problems. Eventually the shuttles were discontinued, due in part to what were perceived as fundamental safety issues. The problem then was what would replace them, because they did actually provide a fairly cost effective (as far as manned space travel goes) means of putting people and supplies into space.
Turns out we are still working on that, and, with the space station still being manned, there is a need to continue to move people and cargo into space. There are companies out there right now that are working on ways to do this using spaceships, for lack of a better word.
However, news has come out this week that another company has just received a patent for a different means of moving people and cargo into space: a space elevator (patent # 9085897). The space elevator is the brainchild of a company (Thoth Technology) out of Ontario, Canada. The apparatus would be a giant (over 12-miles high) elevator that would dwarf any structure currently on earth. For way of comparison, the building that is currently tallest in the world, located in Dubai, UAE, is around a half of a mile high (another one proposed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, would be another 500+ feet taller, which is still nowhere near the size of this elevator). The space elevator would extend into the stratosphere, which, along with it being reusable, would help alleviate some of the costs of space flight due to the reduction in gravity that high. Oh, yeah, it would also be inflatable.
Sound like the stuff of science fiction? Well, actually it is. Various types of space elevators have been proposed in science fiction works, and they have often used different means for conveying things to the top of the elevator, where the landing pad would be. Turns out that the company hasn’t quite come up with how to do this yet, either. There are some possibilities, though, including pneumatic tubes (which, oddly enough are also being proposed for human travel on earth), a railway, or perhaps a gigantic elevator running through it. Although this is far from a minor detail to be sorted out, the company hopes to have a prototype of the elevator up and running within five years.
So, we shall see if this somewhat audacious idea ever amounts to a functioning invention. Regardless, the company did receive their patent and dared to dream big – 12.4 miles big. At US Patent Services, we hope that people continue to dream big and create the ideas that make for a better world. Or, as Casey Kasem used to say, “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.”