Reach for the stars
Going up!! Contrast this innovative idea with the 40 year-old Appollo retread technology that NASA just unveiled for its new moon program.
Stairway to heaven:
"Space may still be the final frontier, but getting there could soon be almost as simple as stepping into the office lift at the start of the day.
The race is on to build the first 'space elevator' - long dismissed as science fiction - to carry people and materials into orbit along a cable thousands of miles long.
Supporters of the elevator concept promise a future in space that is both cheap and accessible, and contrast it to Nasa's announcement last week that it will be relying on 40-year-old technology from the Apollo programme for its $105 billion plan to return to the Moon by 2018. The companies behind the space elevator say they will be able to lift material into orbit for as little as $400 a pound, compared with $20,000 a pound using existing rockets.
That would open up the possibility of tourists visiting a sky hotel in stationary orbit 22,000 miles above the Earth, with a view previously enjoyed only by astronauts.
It would also allow for far cheaper travel to the Moon and other planets within the solar system, since most of the energy required by rockets is used simply to escape Earth's gravity.
Russian scientists first envisaged a fixed link to space, and the idea was popularised by the British sci-fi writer and vision-ary, Arthur C Clarke, in his 1978 novel, The Fountains of Paradise.