Lift into… space! An architect’s unusual idea for future travel

How about a lift journey into space? This concept, abstract in terms of current technology, is the work of Jordan William Hughes. The artist, who works for the Foster Partners studio, believes that in a few decades his Project Ascensio will be cheaper to use than space rockets. Hughes’ concept would connect the ocean to a modern space station via a lift. Could such a futuristic idea ever become a reality?

How do you suspend a lift in space? The concept involves attaching cables to an asteroid orbiting the earth. Lift capsules would slide down the cables. The asteroid would orbit in a geostationary orbit, the same orbit in which some satellites orbit. An object suspended in orbit would move with the earth, maintaining the same position on the planet. This would mean, more or less, that the lift asteroid would orbit at a distance of 35,700 km from the equator. The problem, however, is that there is currently no material from which the aforementioned ropes can be manufactured.

The bold concept is to build a large platform in the middle of the ocean, which would act as a harbour. It would include plenty of greenery and luxury amenities. A space station would serve a similar function. Conceptual graphics show that the capsules leaving the port are something like small spaceships on cables. Inside, there are to be hotel rooms, spas, bars and green elements.

Space tourists

It is hard to predict what materials we will use in the future to build spacecraft. Hughes assumes that carbon fibre and amorphous silicon carbide could be used to build the capsule. The latter is a new material that rivals diamond or graphene in strength. Above all, both materials are very light, which will help to reduce the cost of operation. The Project Ascensio capsules are also to be glazed in many places so that travellers can admire the boundlessness of space.

Project Ascensio is not only a luxury tourist attraction, but also a space cargo terminal. A cargo port in orbit could help further space exploration. Above all, the space lift is an opportunity for scientists. With low-cost travel to orbit, scientists will be able to carry out research in space more frequently and efficiently.

Scepticism about the space lift is fully justified. After all, flying cars, androids or other humanity’s predictions of future inventions have proved too optimistic. However, technological progress is accelerating every decade. According to Hughes, his project is based on physicists’ research and is feasible.

Project Ascensio has been recognised by the Jacques Rougerie Foundation, which gives out annual awards for the most innovative architectural concepts. Hughes won in the Space Grand Prix category. The prizes in this competition are co-sponsored by UNESCO.

Even if the luxury space station is not realised, the very idea of a lift attached to an asteroid can be used in the space industry. Purely theoretically, with the right funding a lift into space could exist.

Source: BBC

Photos: Jordan William Hughes

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