A Canadian company best known for building tiny objects suitable for outer space has just earned a US patent on something distinctly grander: a 12-mile-high inflatable space elevator held up not by cables but by pressurized segments, reports fastcoexist.com. That's more than 20 times taller than the world’s current tallest building, the nearly 3,000-foot-tall Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai. So why a space elevator? Because rockets (and, presumably, the space tourists inside them) require less force to launch when starting that much closer to the destination. "Landing at 12 miles above sea level will make space flight more like taking a passenger jet," says Thoth Technology CEO Caroline Roberts in a press release.
The inventor says astronauts would reach the top via electrical elevator, from where rockets can launch in a single stage to orbit as well as return to refuel. If this seems far-fetched, it's actually less ambitious than Obayashi Corporation's hope to build a space elevator a quarter of the way to the moon by 2050, reports CNET. Even so, Thoth's ambition still requires building just beyond what is known as the "Armstrong Limit," or "the point at which atmospheric pressure is so low that your bodily fluids would boil off without a protective suit," reports Global Construction Review. The idea is gaining so much traction that Seattle is actually hosting a Space Elevator Conference later this month. (Obayashi plans to construct its space elevator not from Earth but from, well, space.)