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29/08/2012 04:46 BST | Updated 28/10/2012 05:12 GMT

Space Elevator Project Seeks Funding On Kickstarter

Crowd-sourced funding website Kickstarter is undoubtedly a great service - but it's usually used to raise money projects on the scale of a new Mac peripheral, or perhaps a human-to-robot dance party transformation.

Not space elevators.

A plan to develop a low-cost way to launch cargo into space via a giant elevator has taken Kickstarter by storm.

The basic idea of a space elevator is to drop a very long, very durable 'cable' from a space station, enabling cargo (or people) to travel up into space by mechanical means and without the use of rocket fuel.

LiftPort, founded by former Nasa researcher Michael Laine, was set up in 2003 to further studies into realistic space elevators.

But after finding some success - and winning the record for building the tallest elevator in the world - the company went into hibernation in 2007.

Now they're back - and a few days ago they launched a project on Kickstarter to find $8,000 in funding, which they've already exceeded four times over.

LiftPort admit that a true space elevator is still 20 to 25 years away, but say before then there are "some vital interim steps" to take before we get there. They argue an elevator could already be built on the Moon "with current technology", and in the meantime they want to develop a robot that can climb two kilometres to a platform suspended by giant balloons, as part of a $1m feasibility study.

Most of all they just want to build a "community". Laine says on the Kickstarter page that before LiftPort can restart its research, they need to "reengage" with science fans around the world and create excitement around the idea of riding elevators into space.

Currently the total stands at $32,000 - and is set to raise much higher in the next fortnight as science fans rush to support the project. Three people have pledged more than $500, for which they'll gain the opportunity to ride the robots to the top of the elevator and basejump off the platform.

"I can't express my gratitude properly, yet, - but I'll find a way," said Laine. "Thank you!"