This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Posted: 9:29 AM- FARMINGTON - Light-powered vehicles zip along a paper-thin tether that stretches thousands of miles into space.
"Is this like, 'Beam me up, Scotty?'" asked Davis County Commissioner Bret Millburn.
Sort of. The California-based Spaceward Foundation is testing ideas for a space elevator, and Utah will play host to the competition this month.
Backed by NASA, the third annual Spaceward Games will be held Oct. 19-21 at the Davis County Events Center in Farmington.
Commissioners signed off on a contract for the three-day event Tuesday.
During the high-flying fest, 24 engineering teams will compete in two categories - the tether competition and the climber/power beaming competition - for the NASA-funded prize of up to $500,000 in cash.
Vehicles traveling along that cable would be powered by beams of light rather than rocket fuel. At the Davis County competition, vehicles must scale a 100-meter vertical racetrack in less than 50 seconds without the aid of fuel or batteries.
In September, University of Utah electrical-engineering professor Om Gandhi hosted Spaceward founder Ben Shelef at a graduate-level seminar.
"I cannot claim to understand all of what he said," Gandhi said of Shelef's presentation. "What I got from it is that we would need to develop some materials, very strong and very thin, and those are well into the future."
That potential tethering materials - called carbon nanotubes (CNTs) - were discovered in 1991, according to Spaceward.org. That discovery led Bradley Edwards, now on Spaceward's board, to publish the space-elevator concept in 1999. The Spaceward Foundation believes such a contraption could be developed by 2020.
Teams competing at the Davis County competition - the third of its kind and the first for Utah - hail from various aerospace companies and universities, including the University of Idaho, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Canada's University of Saskatchewan.
"We've come a long way from the old elevator at J.C. Penney," quipped Davis County Commissioner Alan Hansen.
Spaceward Games 2007:
When: Oct. 19-21
Where: Davis County Event Center, 151 S. 1100 West, Farmington