Funded by NASA and the Spaceward Foundation, the yearly contest offers a $2 million first prize to any group whose machine can quickly climb a kilometer-long ribbon tethered to a helicopter, while receiving power remotely from the ground. On Tuesday, LaserMotive became the first team in competition history to qualify for the $900,000 second prize.
The LaserMotive machine consists of a motor that pulls the device up the 2,953-foot-long ribbon, photovoltaic cells that power the motor, and a ground-based laser that provides the light for the cells. LaserMotive set a new record for the competition, and became the first team to ever reach the top of the ribbon. However, they had to settle for the $900,000 second prize, as securing the $2 million first prize requires not only reaching the top of the ribbon, but doing so at an average speed of 11 miles per hour. Sadly, the LaserMotive machine ran slightly slower than that mark.
http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2009-11/space-elevator-competition-pays-out-900000 | Image: NASA