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太空电梯——是科幻还是未来?

Space Elevator – Science Fiction or the Future of Mankind?

进入太空很难
It’s hard to get to space
我们都希望有一种简单
As much as we all wish there were an easy,
而且负担得起的方式让我们从宇宙俯瞰地球
and affordable way to see our planet floating in the dark
现在,唯一的方法就是成为一位宇航员或亿万富翁
Right now, the only way is to become an astronaut or a billionaire
但是仍旧有一个使之变成可能的概念
But there is a concept that might make it possible
-作为探索宇宙的起点-
-while serving as the starting point for the exploration of the universe-
太空电梯
The space elevator
那么,它是怎么运作的呢?
How exactly does it work?
为了了解太空电梯是如何将人类送入太空
To understand how a space elevator will get us into space
我们首先必须理解什么是轨道
We must first understand what an orbit is
轨道基本的概念就是朝某物靠近
Being in orbit basically means falling towards something,
但移动的足够快以躲开
but moving fast enough to miss
如果你在地球上扔一个球 它会在空中形成一个弧度
If you throw a ball on earth it makes an arch through the air,
然后掉落在地面
and then hits the ground
在太空中 地心引力使你做同样的运动
In space, gravity makes you move much the same way,
但如果你横向分速度足够快
but if you move sideways fast enough
那么 你远离地球的速度
the curvature of the earth makes the ground fall away beneath you
和地心引力把你拉向地球一样快
as fast as gravity pulls you towards it
因此 进入地轨的火箭必须有
So, to enter Earth’s orbit rockets have to go up
一个很快的斜速度
and sideways fast
相比之下 太空电梯的动能来源于地球自转
By contrast, a space elevator taps into energy from Earth’s rotation
以便给货物供速
to get the cargo going fast
想象一下 一个孩子手里有着一只蚂蚁同时 他还用线拽着玩具做着圆周运动
Imagine a child spinning a toy on a rope with an ant on the child’s hand
当蚂蚁沿着绳子向上爬行时
As the ant climbs out along the rope
它的速度会越来越快
it starts to move faster and faster as it ascends
与火箭相比 货物从太空电梯发射
Compared to rockets, with cargo launched on an elevator
你只要提供上升的能量
you only need to provide the energy to go up
高速的横向速度来自于地球自转
Fast sideways movement comes free with the Earth’s rotation
毫无疑问 太空电梯将会是
But the space elevator would without a doubt
人类有史以来建造的最大最贵的东西
be the single largest and most expensive structure ever built by humans
那么,这值得吗?
So, is it worth it?
所有的一切都和造价密切相关
It all comes down to costs
火箭需要燃烧大量的火箭燃料
Rockets burn a huge amount of rocket fuel
只是为了让少量的货物进入太空
just to get a small amount of cargo into space
按照目前的价格 把一公斤重的物品送入太空需要花费大约20,000美金
At current prices, it costs about $20,000 to put one kilogram of payload into space
一个普通人就要1,300,000美金
that’s $1.3 million dollars for the average human
一辆车就要4,000万美金
$40 million dollars for your car
一个国际太空站就像数十亿
billions for an international space station
巨额的成本是人类航天最大的问题之一
This immense cost is one of the major limitations of human spaceflight
即便科技在进步
Even with advancing technology,
成本也不可能很快比得上飞机票的价格
this cost isn’t likely to be comparable with the price of an airline ticket anytime soon
太空电梯可以解决这个问题
A space elevator would solve this problem
完工后
After construction,
太空电梯预计将降低成本
a space elevator is projected to reduce the cost one hundredfold to $200 per kilogram
如果太空电梯花费200亿美金
If an inexpensive space elevator costs 20 billion dollars,
那么我们只需要运送一百万吨的物品到太空就能收回成本了
then we’ll recoup our losses after launching only one million tons
也就是将近两个国际太空站的重量
Close to the weight of two international space stations
那么 太空电梯在现实生活中看起来是什么样的呢?
So what would a space elevator look like in real life?
太空电梯有四大组成部分:
A space elevator has four major components:
栓绳、锚 、平衡体和攀爬物
the tether, anchor, counterweight and climber
太空电梯的电梯部分是栓绳和攀爬物
The elevator part of the space elevator is the tether and the climber
它从地球表面延伸至太空
It extends from the surface of the Earth to space
攀爬物就像是传统意义上的电梯厢
The climber is like a conventional elevator carriage
一个可以在栓绳上下移动的密闭厢
A chamber that works its way up and down the tether
最底下是锚
At the base would be an anchor
将栓绳固定在地球上 同时提供一个乘梯入口
pinning the tether to the Earth along with a port for climbers
在顶端是一个举起平衡锥的缆绳
At the top is the counterweight which holds up the tether
缆绳像绳子一样被拉紧
The tether is held tight like a rope
来支撑来自上面平衡锥的拉力
and supported from above by the tension from the counterweight
位于比地球表面高出3.6万公里
Located higher than 36,000 kilometers above the Earth’s surface
这个平衡锥可以是一个空间站
At the counterweight could be a space station,
一个来自宇航中心电梯的创设使命
a launching point for all missions from the spaceport elevator
但是我们真的能够建造一个太空电梯吗
But can we actually build one?
这很难说
It’s hard to say
其中最大的挑战就是缆绳
The biggest challenge is the tether
他需要轻且,负担的起
It needs to be light, affordable
并且要比我们现在可以生产出来的任何材料都要稳定
and more stable than any material we can produce right now
比较有希望的材料是石墨烯与纳米钻石线
There are promising materials like graphene and diamond nanothreads,
但即便是它们也未必足够坚硬
but even they may not be strong enough
并且除了要难以置信的足够坚硬
And aside from being incredibly strong,
栓绳还要能够承受大气腐蚀 辐射
the tether would also have to withstand atmospheric corrosion, radiation
微小陨石 以及宇宙残骸碎片的冲击
and micrometeorite and debris impacts
还有 电梯爬到顶需要若干天
Additionally, it takes several days to climb the elevator
动力该从哪儿来?
How do we power the climber?
爬上去需要相当多的能量
It requires a lot of energy to go up
电梯仓里是否还需要一个核反应堆?
Do we need a nuclear reactor on our elevator carriage?
或者我们把能量用超能激光发射上去?
Or do we beam it power from the ground with a super powered laser?
该去哪为这根36000公里长的栓绳找到原材料?
And where do we get the raw materials for a 36,000-kilometer-long tether?
我们在地球上制作后将它发射到太空去?
Do we make it on Earth and launch it into space?
还是说我们在太空中制作将它下放到地球上?
Or do we make it in space and lower it down to the Earth?
小行星上采矿可能是个答案?
Could asteroid mining be the answer?
简单点说 现在还有一些主要的技术障碍没有解决
Put simply, there are still some major technological hurdles to overcome
乘坐太空电梯也不是没有风险
And a space elevator is not without risk
栓绳可能会断裂 那将会是种惊人的崩溃效果
Should the tether break, it would collapse in spectacular style
如果它在锚点处断裂
If it breaks near the anchor
由平衡保持释放出来的力会导致整个电梯
the force exerted by the counterweight will cause the entire elevator to rise up
加速上升到太空中
ascending into space
如果在顶部断开
Should it break near the counterweight
缆绳将掉下来
the tether will fall,
缠住整个世界 顶端会产生鞭击效果
wrapping around the world and whipping the end off
结果所产生的碎片停留在轨道上 会对未来的航天飞行造成严重影响
The resulting debris in orbit could pose serious problems to future spaceflight
如果我们真的要在地球上建造一部太空电梯 那一开始就不能出错
If we build a space elevator on Earth, we have to do it right the first time
因为这些原因 一些专家建议 第一部
For these reasons some experts have proposed first building
太空电梯应该在月球上建造
a space elevator on the Moon
月球的重力要远弱于地球
The Moon’s gravity is much weaker than the Earth’s
这样可以用薄一些的已有材料来建造 比如聚酯纤维
so a flimsier but existing material like kevlar
就可以作为一个缆绳
could serve as a tether
即使面对这么多挑战
Even with all these challenges,
完成一部太空电梯所带来的价值是巨大的
the payoff of having a working space elevator would be immense
这也许会是我们真正迈进太空文明的第一步
It might be the first step to truly becoming a space-faring civilization
但也许我们永不可能建造出一部太空电梯
Maybe we will never build a space elevator,
但是即便是尝试这样做也会学到许多
but in trying to do so we might learn an awful lot
当目标是宇宙探索时
And when it comes to the exploration of the universe,
我们实在是无法抑制的对荣耀的未来充满无比的憧憬
there can’t be too many dreams of a glorious future
字幕由Amara.org社区提供
Subtitles by the Amara.org community

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视频来源

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPQQwqGWktE

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