68 SERVO 12.2013
Few things capture the imagination like robotics. The
idea of a robot may conjure up
images of everything from giant arms
making cars to autonomous Iron Man
suits. One other endeavor has the
same power as robotics to galvanize
the imagination from science fiction
to science fact — space.
Both present promises for great
adventure, and combining the two is
perhaps the greatest adventure of all.
Just think of those tenacious rovers
Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity, and
how those appropriately named
robots are the cutting edge of
progress and inspiration.
Robotics and space are the
perfect combination because
nowadays we let robots blaze the trail
before we let a person boldly go
where none has gone before.
With that in mind, this month we
wanted to explore a challenge that
sees a robot as the trailblazer into the
wild blue yonder — the space elevator.
Though many anecdotal accounts
of apple-falling, head-bopping
scientific inspirations may be
apocryphal, we were reminded of the
space elevator by an unlikely source.
Our cat Lida loves to bat around
ribbon, and often seems dead set on
the idea of pulling it out of our
When she’s feeling particularly
feisty, it’s almost as if she wants to
hoist herself onto the ribbon if that is
what is necessary to claim victory.
That reminded us of the way that the
space elevator problem is often
presented at robotics competitions —
the challenge to build a ribbon
The space elevator, however, was
not actually inspired by a playful
feline. The idea for the space elevator
was first published by Russian rocket
scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky way
back in 1895. Tsiolkovsky was initially
inspired by the literature of Jules
Verne, and his specific inspiration for
the space elevator appears to have
completed in 1889.
As the tallest structure in the
world when it was completed and
meant as a testament to humankind’s
innovative ability, the Eiffel Tower
certainly electrified many imaginations.
Tsiolkovsky imagined a structure
spanning from the surface of the Earth
to the height of geostationary orbit,
about 35,790 km. Tsiolkovsky’s
inspiration — the Eiffel Tower —
reaches a height of only about a third
of a kilometer. The problem with
Tsiolkovksy’s vision is that it was for a
by Bryce Woolley and Evan Woolley
Twin brothers hack whatever’s put in front of them, then tell you about it.
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THIS IS HOW WE GET TO SPACE ...
LET'S MAKE THAT —
JUST 110,000 TIMES TALLER!