An airliner lands on a large platform in the Indian Ocean. Passengers scramble off the plane. Hurrying past the artificial island’s shops and hotels, they climb into seats on a railroad car-sized elevator at the base of a sky-piercing tower. The elevator doesn’t stop for hours – not until it has finished a 22,000-mile climb along a cable stretching from the tower to an orbiting space transfer station. From the station, passengers catch a space plane to the moon, or perhaps to Mars. A few go on to mining jobs on an asteroid lassoed to the elevator cable to serve as sort of a space based anchor for the system.