Blasting a space shuttle away from Earth's gravity and through atmospheric friction at 15,000 miles an hour (24,140 kilometers an hour) is the most dangerous and costly part of every mission.
Why not just take an elevator instead? Thanks to a new development in the manufacture of molecule-size cylinders known as carbon nanotubes, that may one day be a viable option.
In theory, space elevators need a fixed line, or cord, that stretches from an anchor on Earth to a station out in space. The station acts like a counterweight, forever "held" above the planet by the centrifugal force from Earth's rotation.
A tram-like vehicle equipped with electric motors could climb this tether from Earth's surface into space at a safer speed than rocket alternatives..........
National Geographic News