Riding the Multi-stage Space Elevator
First you need to get to Kiribati in the central Pacific Ocean, probably via Hawaii. As you approach, you will see a cluster of tubes rising from the terminus platform. The platform is floating and is stabilized in the same way as an oil exploration platform. When preparations are complete, you will board a tube climber and enter the capsule inside it. This capsule will be your accommodation for a week as you travel to an altitude of 22,000 miles.
The tube climber will draw power from the tubes as it ascends through the atmosphere to the edge of space, a journey of about an hour. As you climb higher, the sky will darken and more and more stars will become visible. However, your weight will not reduce noticeably, since you are not in orbit. The ride will be as gentle as riding an elevator in a tall building.
The edge of space, known as the Kármán line, is 60 miles up. There you will arrive at the first stage, where automatic equipment will transfer you inside your capsule from the tube climber to a waiting tether climber. You will see the tether rising into the distance above you. You can just make out the streams of small objects called bolts, which are rising above you in parallel lines. Because they are so fast and there are gaps between them, you will see them as a transparent blur. Normally, there is no-one here, but you may just see an engineer doing some routine checks and maintenance.
Your solar-powered tether climber will commence its ascent at dawn to make the most of the sunlight. The acceleration is very gentle, taking four minutes to reach its speed of 48 mph. As it climbs, it gets further away from Earth, the gravity becomes less, and it loses weight. Therefore, it can climb faster, reaching 72 mph at a height of 1000 miles by the end of the day. The next day, its speed gradually increases to 123 mph as it climbs to just over 3000 miles. The blur of the streams of bolts is still visible about half a mile away on each side of the climber.
At about 9 am on the third day, we reach the second stage, 3750 miles above Earth, where we slow down and stop for a couple of minutes. You can see the streams of bolts reaching the semi-circular shape known as the ambit. They hold the second stage up; it turns them around and sends them back down. In turn, the ambit holds up the equipment at the second stage, and it supports the tether. The tether just below the second stage is thicker than it is above, although you may not be able to see the difference. There is a mechanism on the second stage to transfer the climber from the lower part of the tether to the upper part.
By this time, you are much lighter. Your weight is just over a quarter of what it was on Earth. The same applies to the climber. As a result, it accelerates to its speed of 175 mph and continues to accelerate gently to its maximum speed of 187.5 mph. The climber continues at this speed, with stops due to darkness depending on the season. On the seventh day, it reaches the GEO node at 22,000 miles. Here, you and the climber are weightless. The GEO node is undergoing extensive construction work to turn it into a small city where people can live and work. It is a gateway to the solar system and, ultimately, the galaxy and beyond. You can still see the tether continuing further away from Earth. Earth itself is by now a ball looking much more distant, although it is still the largest object in the sky by far. It no longer seems to be down; in microgravity, ‘up’ and ‘down’ have little meaning.