Ken Gettys

Semi-retired, Volunteer computer instructor at local Senior Center

This conversation is closed.

How high can we build on Earth?

The Experiential High Altitude Platform Organization ( is proposing to build Earth Tower One (ET1) which will be 20 miles high and 40 miles wide. ET1 will be a tribute to humanity, built with open source architecture, and based upon the long standing structure of pyramids and mountains!

The reasons to build ET1 are numerous:
* If built above deserts (1/5 of the Earth's surface), the base area within the open framed pyramid can be slowly transformed from desert to farm land by providing shade and by diverting moisture from upper atmosphere to the base.
* Wind turbines and solar panels can be constructed on movable platforms that rotate toward the wind or sun or away from the high winds of hurricanes and tornadoes into protective shells. This can provide power for remote areas.
* Hundreds of Weather stations, Air Quality Monitors, Weather and Aircraft Radars, Cell Towers, Ham and Public Service radio transmitters and repeaters, and Internet routers and access points can be installed within ET1.
* The high altitude platform on top of ET1 can be used to launch Solar Sails and other objects into space using Space Cannons mounted long the top of ET1.
* Telescopes built near the top of ET1 will have a clear view than surface based telescopes.
* Laser beams installed near the top of ET1 can be used to disintegrate space junk then Solar Sails can be used to sweep up the dust and bring it into the atmosphere to burn up.
* If ET1 is built off shore from major cities, it can help protect those cities from tsunamis.
* If ET1 is built in areas of tornadoes or hurricanes, ET1 can be used to create 200 mph wind streams and releasing reverse winds into the paths of tornados or hurricanes to counteract their destructive forces.
* ET1 will be the tallest pyramid on Earth and a tribute to humanity not just tombs to ancient pharaohs.

So the question is: "How high can we built on Earth" (not "Should we built tall Earth objects")?

  • thumb
    Jul 25 2012: The goal of the Space Elevator is to build a platform that reaches from the surface up to geosynchronous orbit (36000 km). Before you laugh, consider that it's a project on which much research has been done, and is taken very seriously by most aerospace engineers. Carbon nanotubes have been shown to have the tensile strength necessary for such a structure.
  • thumb
    Aug 24 2012: All I can say... Let's find out : )
  • thumb
    Jul 27 2012: To respond to your “Concept of Hubris” comment Barry, I put on my Don Quixote hat before I go about attempting to supporting the design of a 20 mile high building containing, among other things, wind mills.

    Since I know I am not the smartest kid on the block (especially with ancient Greek words like “Hubris”), I had to Google this “Hubris” word, which means ( “extreme pride or arrogance. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one's own competence or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power.”

    As a retired person, I am not a person with any power as I hold no public office (thought I do volunteer on a local city flood plains control advisory committee). So your Hubris comment may concern “the overestimation of my competence or capabilities or contact with reality” not being a person in a position of power.

    Of course building a 20 mile high ET1 with a 40 square mile base by stacking 1/8 mile high (660 feet tall) pyramids on top of each other (up 160 levels) is an overestimation of my person budget, competence (I am not an architect), and capabilities (nor am I an engineer or builder) just a designer (and yes, a day dreamer because, with old timers, I forget the dreams I have at night)!

    So it comes down to my "contact with reality". However that all begs the question at hand: “How High Can We Build on Earth?”. That is “How High Can We Build…”, not “I build” (as I already know I can build a house of playing cards maybe 50 levels high and maybe a 70 to 80 feet high stack of pyramids, each level stacked upon the tops the pyramids below using PCV pipe). Of course these are just small proofs of concept not the massive 20 mles high pyramid shaped ET1.

    So go figure: How High Can We Build on Earth?
  • thumb
    Jul 27 2012: Thank you Feyisayo and Barry,Feyisayo, there is probably a limit to how high we can build, as we don’t want to interfere with satellites as Barry suggested including the Moon! And I doubt the mass of ET1 would be any greater than the tallest mountain on Earth since ET1 will have a hollow core. And at 20 miles high, ET1 will not be anywhere near the height of satellites, nor of sufficient mass to move continents although if we could move continents with tall structures perhaps there are some land objects worth moving? Such as if ET1 were to be built upon a massive iceberg and ET1 fitted with sails, perhaps the iceberg could moved back towards the poles and slow it’s melting.

    Of course, Barry, the building materials would come from Earth… too expensive to import materials from elsewhere :-). And yes, if metals or even carbon nano tubes are used to construct ET1, it would require huge quantities. However to compute a Return On Investment (ROI) you must consider the benefits along with the cost of a project. Consider just one purpose of ET1 and that is if we could build ET1 and use it to launch thousands of Solar Sails in all directions and each carrying just a small telescope, a radio transmitter, and a small package of scientific measure equipment, imagine the tons of data regarding the objects around the solar system that these Solar Sails could be transmitted back to Earth!

    To address your comment Barry about “unintended consequences”: ET1 is using open source architecture and produced by the not-for-profit Experiential High Altitude Platform Organization ( By using open source architecture we hope to gather information from all types of people in all walks of life to add to the scientific method of expecting the unexpected to build a solid, durable, and safe ET1.

    Barry, I will respond to your Hubris comment in another reply as I am out of room for this comment.
  • Jul 26 2012: My first thought is, how much would this weigh? Would the mass be sufficient to alter the paths of satellites?

    Could this affect the movement of continents? Where are you going to get the building materials?

    If metals are used, they will be required in huge quantities and cause a price increase world wide.

    The phrase 'unintended consequences' comes to mind, and the concept of hubris.
  • thumb
    Jul 25 2012: Hi Debra and thank you for your input.

    A building such as ET1 with a height of 20 miles and a 40 sq mile base would be bigger than most towns and even cities too!

    ET1 is planned to be built well away from any existing structures and probably where there are no local building codes. Such as on the middle of a dry lake, in a desert, or on an ocean. This is not to avoid building codes because ET1 would have to withstand everything natural for 1000 years or more. For example to protect from lightening strikes, the exterior supports would be insulated from the interior with lightening rods running down the edges to the ground. And an open frame structure will be less affected by high winds or flooding or tidal waves.

    Built away from populated areas; constructed, operated, and maintained by robots, ET1 will have minimum risk to human lives (and lots of benefits). Like the pyramids in Egypt and mountains, ET1 using pyramid shaped architecture, ET1 will probably stand for longer than 1000 years and as a tribute (hopefully not a mausoleum) for the human race!
  • thumb
    Jul 25 2012: I believe humans can build as high as science, technology and architecture can decide to do. Any height can be attained with the right materials and consultation.
  • thumb
    Jul 25 2012: Well, I think you have to check your town;s buliding codes. In Niagara on the Lake, Canada you are not allowed to build above 3 storeys.
  • thumb
    Jul 25 2012: Thank you Lawren for your information about the Space Elevator (!

    The annual Space Elevator conference is coming up next month in Seattle. The Space Elevator, and the Mega City ( do depend upon carbon nano tubes being developed enough for mass production.

    ET1 started with thoughts about creating a floating experimental high altitude balloon using carbon nano tubes as tethers. And the purpose of this high altitude platform was to launch Solar Sails however the uses of the land based Earth tower could serve many more purposes.

    ET1 ( could perhaps, due to not having to support 55 skyscrapers or the distance of a Space Elevator tether, be constructed of materials already mass produced. ET1 could also be used as an anchor station for the Space Elevator. Since objects can be elevated (and lowered) within the closed beams and support trusses of ET1 to a height above (and below) the jet stream, the problems of high winds and temperature upon Space Elevator climbers can be eliminated!

    And the Space Cannons ( mounted at the top of ET1 can also be used to fire projectiles into space. These projectiles can contain the very objects needed for the Space Elevator: such carbon nano tubes and materials to build the Space Elevator Platform.