With interest I read the Wikipedia article about space elevators, and I remembered an old idea of mine that I had during a discussion with a co-worker about 11 years ago. Of course, it might sound like a stupid idea at first, but why not build a space elevator that just reaches out of Earth's atmosphere? That is built like a tower, about 20 km across and of similar height (or more, depending on how little density of atmosphere is desired). A sufficiently thin wall could house all sorts of space-port businesses, while a center platform, almost 20 km across, would be used to lift spacecraft to and from the high end of the tower. If the tower just reaches out of the atmosphere, spacecraft would still have to overcome gravity, but they could do so (almost) outside the Earths atmosphere. A honeycomb lattice like structure could provide enough structural integrity, and leight-weight materials could keep the overall mass low. This could also be used as a construction site for more refined space elevators that are attached further up in space.
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