If taking a jaunt up beyond our atmosphere from your local spaceport just sounds like too much of a hassle, never fear: soon, you'll be able to just take the express space elevator.
Canadian space company Thoth Technology, Inc. has just been awarded the first US patent for a space elevator, which aims to make the trip to space cheaper and more efficient, by giving astro-men a closer launching point to the great beyond.
The free-standing, inflatable structure will reach 20 km in height (12 miles), making it more than 20 times the height of current tall structures around the globe. It will be pneumatically pressurized and actively guided over its base, with potential uses as diverse as wind-energy generation, communications, and tourism—aside from the aforementioned possibilities of aiding space travel.
Having a structure of that size as a launch pad would make space travel much more practical—estimates track fuel savings at around 30% when launched from the tower compared to conventional space flight, and equipment that was previously only feasible for one use will be able to handle multiple uses. According to Thoth President and CEO Caroline Roberts, "...landing at 12 miles above sea level will make space flight more like taking a passenger jet.”
As of now, there's no schedule to make the tower a reality, but stay tuned—you might be taking the elevator up to your rocket ship sooner than you'd think.