Seeing the Earth as a blue and white ball hanging in the velvet black of space sounds like fun. What a pity getting out there is so dangerous. Space-shuttle astronauts are riding a 3000-tonne bomb undergoing a controlled explosion. The loss of the Challenger crew in 1986, and the Columbia accident early this year confirmed how risky that can be. How much more pleasant to step inside a lift and rise gently into space. Reaching orbit would be no more frightening than riding to the top of a city building. A “space elevator” is exactly what American researchers say we could be using in 15 years.