Rockets are our only option of traveling or sending payload to space today. However, that could change in the future. There are plans to develop alternative methods of travel. And they are truly weird.
Inventors have proposed traveling or sending payload into space with elevators, underwater space guns, catapults, and even balloons. While some of these could be unrealistic and will probably remain a pipe dream, others could appear within the next few decades. Only time will tell.
1 Space Elevators
A space elevator is exactly what you think it is—an elevator that goes all the way from the ground into space. The idea was first proposed by Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in 1895.
Four to six cables would be connected to a single elevator system. Each cable would be connected to an electromagnetic vehicle (which is practically an elevator) that leads to different platforms in space or the upper atmosphere. The elevators would travel at speeds reaching thousands of kilometers an hour.
The upper ends of the cables would be connected to a large mass like a space station or even an asteroid. The bottom of the cables would be connected to a 50-kilometer-tall (31 mi) tower on the ground. Most designs indicate that the ground tower would be built along the equator because areas outside that region are vulnerable to hurricanes and tornadoes.
NASA believes that the elevator will replace or reduce our dependence on rockets one day. Although we haven’t managed to make a space elevator yet, China and Obayashi Corporation of Japan have separate plans to finish one by 2045 and 2050, respectively. If completed, it may reduce the cost of sending 0.5 kilograms (1 lb) of payload into space from $3,500 to $25.