Researchers say that a giant inflatable tower could carry people to the edge of space without the need for a rocket, and could be completed much sooner than a cable-based space elevator.
Inflatable pneumatic modules already used in some spacecraft could be assembled into a 15-kilometre-high tower, say Brendan Quine, Raj Seth and George Zhu at York University in Toronto, Canada.
If built from a suitable mountain top it could reach an altitude of around 20 KM, where it could be used for atmospheric research, tourism, telecoms or launching spacecraft.
The tower does a similar job as the proposed space elevator. But while the elevator envisages using ribbons woven from superstrong nanotubes - a material that is as yet non-existent - the tower would use materials that are already available.
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