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Does anyone else remember the many, many stories about our future vacations on the moon? We'd make our way there, of course, via the mythical space elevator. Sadly, this great invention has yet to come to be.

NASA scientist Jerome Pearson first proposed the elevator in 1969 and continued his work on it through the 70s, additionally providing research to Sir Arthur Clarke for his novel The Fountains of Paradise. While there was some earlier work by a Russian scientist, Yuri N. Artsutanov, it was Pearson's article published in the journal Acta Astronautica that made the elevator famous.

And what a journey it would be! The average distance to the moon is 238,857 miles, or nearly ten trips around the Earth at the equator. There has been much work on this as a concept but as of now, there's no actual work on the structure. The comparable size and reach of the structure requires the device to be both extremely light and supportive of a great weight.

And therein lies the problem. As of now, there's no such material. Most recently, in 2007 there was a Space Elevator contest, which offered a five million dollar prize to a group which managed the development of such a technology. While no team took home the prize, a group from MIT placed first with a nanotube entry that seemed very promising.

In fiction, it's easier. Clarke's The Fountains of Paradise certainly made the concept famous, but there's been more than just his work. Artists and illustrators too, have been inspired by the idea.

And where can we go from here? Only up, of course.