Recent history is full of technologies which are similar wiping out competing technologies at enormous cost. 8-tracks v. cassettes, VCR and whatever that other one was. Then floppy discs, CDs, DVDs, laser discs and apparently Blu-Ray, and whatever Blu-Ray did in.
I saw a brief article on the “Space Elevator” the other day and started thinking. What if materials science figured out a way to make a strong enough material both light and inexpensively. Then someone threw up the string and went into business.
Satellites could be taken up way out of the atmosphere to launch themselves or be taken into a more appropriate orbit. Tourists could go up and down, or go up and be picked up by orbiters and driven around before being brought back to the elevator. Chunks of Moon and Mars explorers could be hauled up and assembled. It all sounds good.
But would that render all the chemical methods of getting material into orbit obsolescent? Could the various rocket companies go the way of Blockbuster or Hollywood, up very fast and down almost as rapidly, carrying away similar fortunes?
Who would have thought the internet would create an Amazon.com and see Sears go nearly if not out of business? Or a MicroSoft become worth as much as United Airlines, General Motors and Africa combined?
God willing and the Fundamental Religious of All Stripes and Ilks don’t rise, I’d bet that some electromagnetic cannon, or sled could be invented which could be aimed and launch small to medium sized items into LEO comparatively inexpensively, rendering our elevator obsolescent.
And thus into the 22nd century. No strictly safe high tech investment for the long, long run. But many fortunes made, lost and stolen.
Or maybe not. What do I know?