Recently I've been the cause of a number of heated arguments lately in the Yahoo Chat Science rooms. I've been flamed, booted, threatened, called an Idiot and a Troll and why?
Well it's because of a space ramp.
Now I've been aware of the brilliant space elevator project for some time, but I've been wondering for a number of years whether in theory a space ramp could be constructed that you could walk up, hop off it' at the end and into a near weightless orbit in outer-space. What if you had a little jet pack on, would that help you? Would the pull from the earths gravity still be just as strong as if you were still on the ground? Or would you, because of earths escape velocity, simply drop like a rock no matter how far the ramp extended into space? That in essence is my question I put forward to you.
I know it's got to be a very VERY big ramp I'm talking about here, the biggest object ever created by human hands and so naturally that presents us with some unique obstacles.
- Materials: What to build a giant space ramp with. Key issues here are Strength, Weight, Cost and Labour.
- Location: Where would you build this immense structure in the first place? It's quite possible that the foundations alone for a ramp on this kind of colossal scale might require an area the size of Eurasia or even larger. And unless there was a donor continent an artificial one might need to be created also.
- Cost: How much would the big ramp cost? That should also include the obvious environmental costs. Depending the materials used, I imagine a giant space ramp reaching out into space would probably cast a significantly large shadow over the earth. (A lot like a sundial)
- Physics: (which is where the heart of the argument lies) How far into space 200 miles? 4000? I don't know? Also the gradient of the ramp itself. Less angle means a gentler slope but of course that means more material, in fact more of everything.
I hope someone gets back with an answer a layperson such as myself can comprehend and accept. I'll keep you posted.