A laser-powered robot took a climb up a cable in the Mohave Desert November 4, and pushed ahead the sci-fi inspired notion of a space elevator capable of lifting astronauts, cargo, and even tourists up into orbit. The robot, built by LaserMotive of Seattle, whizzed up 2,953 feet (nearly 1 km) in about four minutes, which qualifies the team for at least $900,000 of the $2 million in prizes offered in the NASA-backed Space Elevator Games. As of Friday, November 6, it remained the only team to have qualified.
The LaserMotive vehicle that climbed up the cable (held by a hovering helicopter) was powered by a system that resembles an upside-down solar power mechanism. Laser beams on the ground were fired up at the ascending craft and hit its photovoltaic cells in a process known as "power beaming."
Full story from Discover magazine
Can scientists make a space elevator? (CNN)
Winner in contest involving space elevator (New York Times)
2009 Space Elevator Games website