Once the realm of science fiction, a Japanese company has announced they will have a space elevator up and running by the year 2050

If successful it would revolutionize space travel and potentially transform the global economy.

Gigantic-Elevator-Into-Space-by-2050
PHOTO: The space elevator will transport people and cargo at a fraction of the cost of Earth-based rockets. (Obayashi Corporation)

It may sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, but a Japanese construction company called Obayashi plans to build a space elevator that will travel 96,000 kilometers — approximately 60,000 miles — into the sky, changing space travel forever.

Thanks to carbon nanotechnology, humanity is finally capable of making cords strong enough to hoist people and their luggage up into space, research and development manager Yoji Ishikawa told ABC News. They’re still figuring out how to make the cables long enough, but Ishikawa assured ABC that the step will be complete by 2030. The whole project is expected to be finished by 2050.

Retirement in space, anyone?

Gigantic-Elevator-Into-Space
PHOTO: Obayashi says it may not be too long before the moon is the next must-see tourist destination. (Obayashi Corporation)

Not only are Obayashi employees working overtime to make the elevator a reality, but universities around Japan are sponsoring contests, turning the research into a group project. And work on the elevator won’t be limited to Japan, either — a 2012 study found that the elevator was definitely possible, but would be much easier to make if other countries helped.

So what’s so great about a space elevator? First of all, it would vastly decrease the cost of sending stuff into space. In an average shuttle, every kilogram of cargo incurs about $22,000 in expenses to take a trip up to, say, the International Space Station. In the elevator, that lofty price would go way down to $200 a kilogram.

See also: Can life prevail in the vacuum of space?

The space elevator would also cut back on our need for fuel. Smaller rockets could simply shuttle back to the Earth along the elevator’s track, rather than expending immense amounts of gas to break through our thick atmosphere.

And developers also hope that the elevator could ultimately be a way to transport nuclear waste off our planet, or bring solar energy back, though the study didn’t examine these claims. Hopefully, by the time the elevator works well enough to transport cargo, we’ll have a good understanding of where it’s best to dispose of nuclear waste and whether it would be smart or safe to cart it off the planet.

Surprisingly, nobody’s yet mentioned the best use, in my humble opinion, for this elevator: shipping a lifetime supply of astronaut ice cream to whatever becomes the future’s hottest space hangout.

See also: NASA Will Take Humans To Mars by the 2030

Source | Ryot