It is that time of the year again. Over the course of this weekend (Aug 12 - 14), space elevator enthusiasts will gather in Redmond, Washington to present new research on what may well be the most exciting engineering project of the 21st century. Those with little or no knowledge about the space elevator may wish to check out my space elevator page (link above) before reading on.
The space elevator topic is the focus of three annual conferences; the two other conferences are held in Japan and Europe, respectively, while this weekend's event is the North American edition. I had the opportunity to attend and speak at the 2009 Space Elevator Conference, and have kept in contact with the small but growing space elevator community in North America.
Although I will not be attending the conference this year, I am on the judging panel for the Pearson and Artsutanov prizes, which are awarded to the best papers. This year, the theme for these papers is research that will lead towards a material suitable for the construction of the space elevator ribbon. The material challenge remains the most daunting technological one for the overall project. In a way, this is a very good thing, because it is not an isolated challenge - stronger and lighter materials are being developed continuously for non-space related use as well.
The entity that organizes the Space Elevator Conference in North America is called ISEC (International Space Elevator Consortium). ISEC seeks to aid in making the space elevator a reality sooner than later, and has taken a bold step this year by creating the journal, Climb: it is the first scientific journal specific to the space elevator topic. The journal will help to centralize the state of the art for the space elevator project, and will be particularly important for space elevator academics that cannot attend the conferences. Those interested in the space elevator project should consider joining ISEC, as the very reasonable membership fee includes a copy of Climb.
For those attending the conference this year, I hope that you enjoy it. The space elevator project needs a community, and the conference helps to grow and strengthen it. For more information regarding this weekend's conference, please click on this link.