Los Alamos scientist explains the challenge, promise and physics of the space elevator

By Britten K. Stark

An elevator to space may realistically be years in the future, but the concept is raising quite a stir in the physics community.

Dr. Bryan E. Laubscher, of Odysseus Technology, spoke with more than 80 BCC students about the ideas and methodology behind the space elevator on Tuesday.

The complexities of the space elevator reach far beyond the grasp of a non-physics student, but Laubscher eagerly discussed the difficult concepts and formulas with the students who attended.

“It was nice and informative,” said Alex Tsuchida, BCC student pursuing physics and astronomy. The discussion left him with many questions to think about further.

Laubscher’s slides clearly depicted physics equations and colorful, easy to see graphics, but the lecture was not an introductory physics course. The formulas and methodologies presented required previous knowledge and understanding of physics and astronomy.

In the most basic terms, he discussed centripetal acceleration and its importance to the Space Elevator. Then he presented formulas with multiple variables. The audience appeared to follow his explanations carefully, as they challenged his thoughts on the many topics presented.

Aside from the science of the elevator’s infrastructure, there are many practical reasons to discuss the space elevator. Logistically, it would use much less fuel than a rocket, so it would be less expensive to access space.

It could also be a source of income as it could be used for solar power. Solar power is “possibly the second major commercial use of space,” explained Laubscher.

“Great economic expansion will occur once a space elevator infrastructure has opened space resources for exploration and creating a better life here on