The Wall Street Journal ran a story on "space elevators" last week. The idea is to launch a geosynchronous satellite with a high-strength, low-weight tether that extends all the way back to Earth and is anchored (to say, an offshore oil derrick). Then, you can send materials back and forth using a climber contraption.
A rocket would take two spools, each the size of a living room with 31,000 miles of ribbon wrapped around it, to an orbit of 22,000 miles. Both would be unrolled, one being allowed to waft back to earth, the other pulled up and away from earth by a spacecraft and then anchored with a weight at the end. Then they'd be joined in the middle.
The bottom portion would be secured onto an oil rig-like platform located along the equator, 1,500 miles west of Mexico, a location chosen for its uneventful weather.
The ribbon would weigh 800 tons, or about 26 pounds a mile. Were it to break, the top segment would float away into space while the bottom would fall to earth. Nothing you'd want to be on hand to see, of course, "but nothing that would threaten the planet," said Edwards.