The Quest to Build an Elevator to Space

Serious people are trying to build an elevator to space. That’s not a metaphor, and yes, a space elevator sounds like plot point from an Arthur C. Clarke novel. Which makes sense, because it is. It’s a risky but well-considered plan to create a workable transit system between the ground and a set point outside the Earth’s atmosphere. The space elevator isn’t only a mad-eyed steampunk daydream.
If some indefatigable elevator crusaders have their way, it will be ripped out of the annals of science fiction and safely constructed into reality. The idea is futuristic, but it’s also quite old: In 1895, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, a rocket scientist in Russia, drew up an early proposal for a space elevator, and the basic concept remains unchanged. Enthusiasm for the endeavor has waxed and waned in the space exploration community over the years, but right now, a few high-profile projects are bringing the outlandish-sounding space elevator into focus again.
They’ve captured the attention of documentarians as well as dreamers; feature-length films on elevator projects are in the works, like Shoot the Moon and Skyline: The Space Elevator Documentary. The basic concept, in 1895 and still today, calls for an anchored cable stretching into space, capable of transporting people and things offworld. Tsiolkovsky imagined this tether anchored to Earth. Though the specifics of his design were totally impractical (he wanted the weight to be supported from below, while modern-day space elevator planners accept that it would need to be supported from above) the whole "tether from Earth reaching to space" thing is still the standard space elevator concept.