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The California-based Spaceward Foundation has launched a competition to bring technology and engineering to the design and construction of a space elevator.
The project, named "Elevator: 2010" will focus on innovations in fields that could open the way for payloads to be lifted into space by light-powered platforms.
Such platforms, also known as climbers, would move up and down super strong ribbons rising as high as 100,000 kilometers above Earth's surface.
The competition will be in three areas: Climber Competition, Tether Strength, and Power Beaming Competition. The first competition is tentatively scheduled for next June or July in the San Francisco Bay area.
The fastest-moving climber would earn its team a 50,000 US dollars prize, with a 20,000 US dollars second prize and a 10,000 US dollars third prize.
The strongest ribbon would win a 10,000 US dollars first prize, and the best power-beaming system could win 10,000 US dollars.
If space elevators could actually be built, the cost of sending payloads into space could be reduced from 10,000 US dollars per pound to 100 US dollars, opening up a revolutionary route to the final frontier.