While we imagine a world of space travel and planet hopping, it might as well include an easy, cost-effective way of getting off Earth. Science-fiction author Neal Stephenson is developing a concept for a skyscraper that would go to the striking and surprising height of 12.4 miles (20 kilometers) for the sake of making rocket launches way more cheaper and easier.
To put things in perspective, the current tallest man made building, the Burj Khalifa is 830 meters high, the tallest proposed man made building, the under-construction Kingdom Tower in Jeddah will be 1000 meters high. When you realize the proposed structure is more than twice the height of Mount Everest (8.8 km), and even way higher than commercial aircrafts (12 km), you can understand just how difficult the idea is.
Stephenson studied physics before turning to science fiction, and the idea comes from Project Hieroglyph, a collaboration of scientists and sci-fi authors backed by Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination. They are of course aware of the challenges in creating such a structure, wind being the most detrimental in the construction of a building so high. Stephenson believes high grade steel could one day be used to build such a structure. If something like this could be realized, it would a cheap way to send objects into space.