Manufacturing Minute: The Inflatable Space Elevator

In this episode, an elevator to the sky, a robot for the home and the U.S.'s first Chinese-made car.

In this episode, an elevator to the sky, a robot for the home and the U.S.'s first Chinese-made car.


Space travel is understandably expensive, but one Canadian aerospace company believes they can pare down the price tag.Thoth Technology recently secured a patent for an inflatable elevator that would shuttle astronauts to the edge of the troposphere.

The freestanding “space tower” would stretch more than 65,000 feet into the sky and allow astronauts to catch a ride to space from its rooftop launchpad.The proposal could reduce spaceflight energy costs by 30 percent, but Thoth would still need to clear a lost list of logistical and regulatory hurdles before their idea could take shape.


We may be close to the Jetsons’ flying car, but what about their housekeeper robot Rosie? That, too, could be around the corner.

Meet Buddy, a companion robot from Paris-based startup Blue Frog Robotics. At about 2 feet tall, Buddy operates autonomously, with a battery life of up to 10 hours.Outfitted with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth tech, Buddy can tackle all sorts of tasks, from waking you up in the morning to keeping track of your daily tasks to serving as a home security sentry.

Noticeably absent, however, are the abilities to cook and clean.


The first major Chinese-made vehicle to be sold in the U.S. may not come from an overseas company but from the largest American automaker.

General Motors could begin importing its Buick Envision crossover from China by the end of 2016.

Reports suggested that it would make more sense for GM to import a crossover from China — which is Buick's largest market — than to start new domestic production.

GM officials said the talk was purely speculation at this point, but acknowledged that they’re keeping their options open. Still, Chinese-made goods and American manufacturers operating in China are always thorny political issues.


Does importing cars from China make sense for U.S. automakers? Will American drivers trust a car with a "Made in China" on its sticker?

And after the United Auto Workers union slammed the report, will China become a factor in GM's ongoing contract talks?

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