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November 6th, 2009

First stage of NASA’s ‘space elevator’ contest won

Published on November 6th, 2009 | By: pwray@ceramics.org

LaserMotive‘s photovoltaic-powered machine became the first in the three-year history of NASA’s space elevator contest to climb a 2,953-foot-long ribbon, securing a prize of $900,000.

The competition saw teams use laser-powered robots they designed and built to climb a 1 kilometer-long cable suspended vertically from a hovering helicopter.

LaserMotive fell short of the $2 million grand prize. For that, they would have had to ascend the ribbon with an average speed of 5 meters per second or roughly 11 mph. They didn’t quite reach that goal – they surpassed a secondary goal of 2 m/s – but it appears that scientists are finally making real progress on a concept first proposed in 1895. What’s more, the ground laser that was used to charge the photovoltaic cells used half the power than their previous model with far better results.

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