Part of Above and Beyond exhibition at Questacon

The concept of a space elevator to the ‘stars’ has been around since 1895 and it has come to Canberra’s Questacon as part of the Above and Beyond Exhibition which is open until July 23.

Above and Beyond has been on tour world wide in recent years and is a much admired interactive ‘hands on’ exhibition presented by Boeing and developed in collaboration with NASA and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Children and adults are encouraged to get involved with ‘multi-sensory challenges’ such as designing and testing a supersonic jet in virtual high speed, planning a trip to Mars in an augmented reality experience, and exploring the aerodynamics of a flight by performing a wind tunnel test.

None of which should be attempted at home! The space elevator concept is quite possibly a real life challenge for your children’s grand children, maybe in the latter part of their 22nd century lives, but it has fascinated physicists and fantasicts for well over 100 years.

The principles of a tower that could physically launch large scale industrial and scientific missions to the Moon and beyond are fine. It’s the materials and machines that would allow this which are the problem. As in enormous problems.

But building something with the same carrying capacity as a multi-track railroad to release points more than 36,000 kilometres above the surface of the Earth will open Space to enterprise and exploration on the same scale started by maritime commerce in the 17th century. And maybe quickly grow from there.

More details can be found on the Questacon website and in this background article by the Smithsonian.

My generation had a song by Bob Dylan about building a ‘ladder to the stars’. Our offspring can, as his lyrics suggested, ‘stand on every rung’, or make that, the early rungs.

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