Sunday, November 23, 2003

Stairway to Heaven

space elevator

The Space Elevator: You've seen it legitimized, lampooned and blogged, but here you can see it beautifully illustrated. Even if you think the idea preposterous that nanotubes will buy us a stairway to heaven, it's still nice to imagine. This illustration was done by Chris Wren, who makes a living using his imagination at Mondolithic Studios with his partner, Kenn Brown. I'll let Chris explain why and how he came up with this Space Elevator illustration:

    I did this piece for a commission we got from Focus magazine in Italy. Seems like the old idea of the space elevator is starting to be taken seriously again. The article's focus (no pun intended) was how new materials such as carbon nanotubes are finally showing promise in overcoming some of the technical and engineering challenges presented by such a massive project.

    I've always been fascinated by the idea of a space elevator, ever since I read Arthur C. Clarke's "Fountains of Paradise." But when I started to look for reference images on Google, I was surprised at how little there was. I found a few images, but they didn't really seem to suggest the sense of extreme height and perspective that I thought would be cool.

    I used 3DS Max to model and texture the elevator itself. Then I took it into Photoshop, and added a lot of the small accent lights. The Earth itself is a composite of NASA images, and satellite cloud imagery. I did up the city lights with MAYA's paint effects, and some hand brush work in Photoshop. The final image size was 6000X3000 pixels, at 72pp1.

    There was a symposium last year to discuss practical plans for the design and construction of a space elevator. Arthur C. Clarke himself even made a live speech via satellite from his home in Sri Lanka - a likely location for a space elevator by the way. Sadly, the participants agreed that the biggest hurdle to overcome was not technical - but the threat of terrorism. That's why the elevator is now being planned to be anchored to a midocean platform at some point on the equator.


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