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A ladder to space


You rascal! My word, you are getting big for your boots, aren’t you!!? You want to make a ladder to take you up into space. It’s so insane, so ludicrous, so impossibly difficult, that we should definitely try! I’m on board.

62 50 76 miles straight up The most efficient way to go anywhere is in a straight line. The Romans built roads directly to wherever they wanted to go simply to be very efficient. It’s 62 miles straight up into the air to reach space if you ask one person, but NASA will say 50 miles. That’s a bit too low, so scientifically, 76 miles is the point when air no longer drags objects moving. Therefore, we need to build a ladder about 76 miles or 122 km long (25% of the Grand Canyon!). Sounds easy!

Choose your method, young padawan Now that you know how far you have to build it, you’ll have to think about how to craft it. The issue here is simple. Tall things love falling down. Gravity will pull an object down, but eventually, the wind whipping into your ladder will pull it one way or the other and 76 miles of ladder will come crashing down. Or, if you’re incredibly lucky, it won’t blow over, but when someone starts climbing it, they’ll add their weight in one direction and have an “oh no, this gigantic ladder is going to fall over and I’m on it!” moment. A simple ladder just isn’t going to cut it. There are far too many variables to build it. The wind could blow. Your weight will unbalance it. The sun may heat a wooden ladder and make it more pliable and bendy. 9,985 seagulls may think it’s a giant french fry and crash into it. Regardless, you need to think of something that can reach into the sky without falling over - which means... metal!

Brrrrr....it’s freezing up here...and I’m exhausted...and *choke* Okay, perhaps you chose an incredibly sturdy material like graphene or titanium to build your ladder. It’s still standing, so it's time to start climbing. 76 miles is a long, long, vast distance to cover when you’re going straight up. As you get higher, the amount of air decreases, and thus, the amount of oxygen diminishes. Two things will happen. It’s going to get very, very, very bitterly cold. At 40,000 feet (9km), it’s going to be around -54oC (I hope you like frostbite). Gosh! Need to go down again and get some arctic clothing to protect you from the terrible cold. Now, we have a new problem. All of that insulating, warm clothing is relatively heavy. It’s going to be a looooooong climb. Weeks. Months. You’ll have to sleep on the ladder, carry food, do your *cough* business. When you finally reach high enough to really get close to space, there will be even less air and less oxygen. Congratulations! You have nothing to breathe. This is the worst trip ever.

This is rather challenging, peeps Yes, yes, it really is. You are standing there, freezing, unable to breathe, thinking, “why did I try to climb a ladder to space?”. You’ve now got to climb down without dropping off. You know who I blame? Gravity. Yes, gravity! That force, that thing, that adversary (remember Alexander). It keeps you glued to the Earth along with all the air, all the warmth, and all the seagull poop - where we belong!

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