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Japan is trying to build an elevator into outer space

The Obayashi Corporation plans to have a 96,000 km long elevator going into space within 40 years

Space elevators have long been the plaything of science fiction authors like Arthur C Clarke and Iain M Banks, but a Japanese construction company has big plans to turn fantasy into reality. The Obayashi Corporation has announced that it intends to have a 96,000km space elevator running from Earth to outer space by the year 2050, carrying cargo and humans to a new space station in cars that fit 30 people.

While the idea of 96,000km may strike some of you as an impossibility, scientists believe that it's achievable by using carbon nanotubes, an incredibly strong material also used to make the world's "darkest ever material", Vantablack

Speaking to Australia ABC, Obayashi researcher Yoji Ishikawa explained: "The tensile strength is almost a hundred times stronger than steel cable so it's possible."

If the project is successful, it could spell an end for shuttle missions into space. Rockets launched from Earth are dangerous and hugely expensive – a shuttle typically costs £14,000 per kilo to transport cargo into space, whereas an elevator would cost a mere £120 per kilo.

Ishikawa believes that this is a project that requires international cooperation. "I don't think one company can make it," he said. "We'll need international organisation to make this big project."

If built, the space elevator would come with numerous positives – people could holiday in space, small shuttles could be launched from genuine off-world colonies, and we could deliver solar power to Earth. The negative? Imagine the awkward silence in an elevator travelling 96,000 km.