We’ve been following LiftPort all summer as they push to build an experimental robot that will climb a tether more than 24,000 feet into the sky.

It’s all being shot for a feature-length documentary called Shoot The Moon. We’re also planning on shooting special effects sequences depicting a lunar elevator in action using the techniques of vintage sci-fi from the 70s and 80s. (Think model miniatures like Star Wars.) We’re crowdfunding this portion of the film, and we’ll post a link pending mod approval!

Ask us anything! We have Michael Laine, the president of LiftPort here, to answer any questions about the space elevator, and the film team here to answer any questions about the film including director Benjamin Ahr Harrison, Exec Producer Mahad Ibrahim, & Producers Alexis Santos & Idil Ibrahim.


Comments: 117 • Responses: 15  • Date: 

xipetotec22 karma

How can we know if LiftPort can organize anything at all, if they cannot complete such a simple task as delivering prizes to kickstarter supporters?

BenjaminAhr10 karma

I think that's an interesting question that remains open. It's one of the key questions our film attempts to answer. One thing I will say is that fulfillment is a very difficult challenge that is very different from the engineering challenges LiftPort is facing.

I do agree that there's a violation of trust that Michael needs to rectify with the Kickstarter. We have been following this part of the story from the very beginning of our efforts. We'd really like to interview a group of backers. Would you be interested in taking part in that?

xipetotec8 karma

A project of such magnitude is not going to be accomplished by a few genius engineers working in in someone's garage. Thousands of people (including engineers) will have to work together, and those people will have to be:

a) found and hired

b) told what to do

c) paid

All the tasks above have nothing to do with pure engineering and everything to do with good ol' organizing and delegating.

BenjaminAhr5 karma

You are definitely not alone in this criticism. We want it to get a fair shake in our film. Let me know if you'd be interested in participating.

Palazzone7 karma

I fly the highest tethered vehicle in the world at 22,000 ft altitude. What do you plan to accomplish by flying a tethered vehicle to 24,000' and who are you getting your system from? Maybe you shouldn't waste your money on this for a documentary just yet?

BenjaminAhr3 karma

I'm curious to know what vehicle you're talking about! LiftPort's robot is a prototype for the lunar system they want to build, so I doubt they'd be interested in an off the shelf tech since they need to learn how to climb up a tether in order to build the real thing. The documentary isn't financially linked to LiftPort at all. We're just following their efforts!

hoffm6 karma

Benjamin: I'm sure that as a human being you're rooting for Liftport's experiment to succeed, but, as a filmmaker, what outcome would make for the best story? Do you allow yourself to think that way when making a doc?

BenjaminAhr6 karma

I think the best story is one that shows LiftPort pushing through the numerous challenges they face and finishing their big experiment with a successful result. As a filmmaker, I'm just trying to find the most interesting way to tell a story about what really happens. If they have to make two attempts at the experiment, I'd say that would make for an interesting twist, but that's up to fate!

xefelqes5 karma

Have you read The Fountains of Paradise? How close is it to your work?

LunarElevator2 karma

Forgot to mention, there is a lot of other really good fiction that is less known: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_elevators_in_fiction

And there is a growing body of fiction related to our Lunar Elevator. So far, none of this stuff is very accurate. But we're working with some authors to give them some pointers. Hopefully the accuracy will slowly creep into these stories.

xefelqes4 karma

I'm sure that it has been mentioned on the other resources, but would you please answer the most basic questions:

1) How long will it take to build the elevator?

2) How much money would it take, who sponsors it and why?

3) What functions it will perform?

4) When will the movie come out?

BenjaminAhr2 karma

I'll take question 4! The current target we have is Fall of 2015 to be finished with the film. Obviously a lot can impact that estimate in either direction, but if we can get it done sooner we will. It's mainly a question of resources.

CKoln3 karma

How long have you been filming/researching/working on this? How long would the film be?

BenjaminAhr3 karma

The film will probably be 90 or 120 minutes. It's a full theatrical feature film. Depending on how you count it, I've been working on it since just after LiftPort's Kickstarter. I was producing and directing a monthly web series for Engadget.com called The Engadget Show, and we did an episode on New Space. LiftPort was the lead story in that episode, and you'll notice some of the footage from that in our Kickstarter teaser.

We decided to do this film as a feature right around January of 2014, and Mahad and I have been flying back and forth from Brooklyn to Seattle to shoot it ever since! I'm actually headed back to Seattle tomorrow to shoot some more stuff with Idil Ibrahim, one of our producers!

hobnobbinbobthegob4 karma

In your opinion, what are the odds that the space elevator's crew will wear sharp-looking elevator attendant uniforms like this?

LunarElevator3 karma

That's from "Hudsucker Proxy" right? Yup, count on it! Our team will have a strict dress code. Although we might combine that uniform with this one: https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=dava+space+suit+mit&id=26EB7CC7AA809DDE047A628832B15B7191D1FDFE&FORM=IQFRBA

p.s. I'm referencing the work of the new NASA Associate Administrator.

hobnobbinbobthegob1 karma

You're wonderful.

BenjaminAhr2 karma

Buzz has the fuzz and makes the elevator do what she does! Also was the second man on the moon!

vincyrae464 karma

How will you explain your project to dummies?

BenjaminAhr4 karma

We're hoping the film is accessible to everyone! We need a way to get to and from the moon that is affordable and safe if we're going to have routine manned missions. One of the reasons we wanted to make the film was to make the case for that in a broadly appealing way.

superduperspam3 karma

Can we send pizzas to astronauts?

BenjaminAhr5 karma

The delivery guy is gonna be PISSED when he finds out how long it takes to get to the top floor!

CKoln3 karma

Will the documentary contain only information about LiftPort's project or also something about other projects? (Like the japanese company that said they wanted to build an Earth Elevator by 2050).

BenjaminAhr2 karma

The narrative of the film is mainly focused on the runup to LiftPort's experiment, but we will definitely include lots of context for it, including information about the Obayashi announcement as well as some competing American efforts to build an Earth-based space elevator.

free91132 karma

How can a structure that high be supported?

BenjaminAhr2 karma

It's a tether connected to the ground with very large balloons at the top.

CKoln2 karma

Would an Earth elevator still be profitable if companies like SpaceX manage to build reusable rockets?

BenjaminAhr3 karma

I'd imagine they could both find uses. One of the big problems with rockets is how environmentally impactful they are, but they have the elevator beat in terms of speed. For non-urgent trips, the elevator would probably be the way to go, but rockets would likely be kept as an option for certain types of missions.

arealalpaca1 karma

Do you have info regarding the probability of such a device being hit by space debris or other fast moving solid objects?

I think the idea is cool but the idea of what would happen if it were to collapse is kind of terrifying IMO.

BenjaminAhr1 karma

I may be wrong about this, but I think the concern with the lunar elevator is more to do with micrometeorites that could hit it. It's far enough away from the Earth that space junk isn't a factor. It's definitely an unsolved problem as far as I know, but I have no idea what the probabilities are.

jthill1 karma

24,000 feet? I'm thinking that has got to be a typo. Could you correct it, please?

BenjaminAhr2 karma

Nope! That's their target! They want the experiment to be the tallest freestanding thing in North America when they do it. Call Guinness!

Satyrcynic1 karma

Forgive my ignorance of basic astronomy, but how will the elevator stay connected as the earth and moon rotate? Will they disconnect and reconnect at certain times? Will your ship have to travel around the earth to follow the moon?

BenjaminAhr1 karma

No worries! The lunar elevator would be attached to the moon and stretched back towards the Earth, but wouldn't be touching the Earth. Even if the Earth-based space elevator were also built, they wouldn't touch. You would still need a rocket to get to the lunar elevator.