A Perspective on the Controversy Concerning Liftport's Space Elevator Roadmap

The current controversy over Liftport’s release of a roadmap for the Space Elevator is important because it is allowing for a larger set of issues to be considered. In my opinion, the root of the action by Liftport and the contention to the release of its roadmap point to what is missing in the Space Elevator community.

Because we are in the “infancy” of the Space Elevator, it is not clear what it will grow into in its maturity. Therefore, we have a broad range of work that is valid, ranging from speculative visions to detailed scientific and engineering research. Unfortunately, not all of it is of high quality nor does all of it further the Space Elevator. In short, we have exuberant individuals and small teams working independently and in concert, some for the positive and some for the negative! There has been no oversight, criticism or acclimation of effort, no matter how well carried out or how shabbily executed. This must change!

As a community we need to work more closely together to encourage and support good work while discouraging shoddy work. And we need to do this out of the public eye. All of us need to be willing to have our work reviewed. Indeed, my most talented scientific colleagues insist on having their work reviewed by peers because they know the importance of their work and they honor their reputations! This level of activity is for adults with serious intentions. It is not for the insincere or insecure. Through this process we will all be called to a higher standard of work.

Moreover, the release by Liftport of a roadmap, does an important service by, in fact, pointing toward the need for a roadmap for the Space Elevator effort. I am taking a stand that a roadmap must be generated by the community, be of appropriate depth and call out milestones. In this way, our now separate efforts can be focused to produce a greater, cumulative effect. This will not be easy or without dissent, but it is important and necessary.

I call upon the Space Elevator community to attend the 2nd Biennial Space Elevator Workshop (which is a part of the Space Exploration 2007 Conference sesinstitute.org). If the community responds, we will set aside an afternoon to have first a structured discussion and then a more free-ranging session concerning a roadmap outline. We must quickly and efficiently determine the intent, timescale, scope and depth of the document. Then we can select the major milestones and finally elect a small group to draft a first draft for posting on spaceelevator.com for review.

In the meantime and as preparation for the workshop, I call upon every space elevator group to discuss the roadmap concept and to distill the most important milestones they see as necessary for Space Elevator development. As a guide, I refer everyone to NASA’s roadmaps a few examples of which are:

These are available on line and usually are the result of a process in which the interested scientific and engineering community was heavily involved in the development of the roadmap.

When you come to the workshop, be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get to work.

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