Elevator 2010 is a series of competitions founded by NASA with prize money totaling $4 million to be awarded to teams that achieve specific goals related to space elevator technology by the year 2010. The competition beginning on October 20th, 2006 requires the construction of a device consisting of a base pad that supports on launch and touchdown a payload-carrying "mechanical climber" capable of ascending a 50 m "vertical race track" ribbon supplied by the competition using a beam source, climb motor, climbing mechanism, control logic, and other designated logistical effects.
The Space Elevator concept appeared for the first time in 1895 when Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky considered a tower that would reach all the way into space. In the 20th century, Arthur C. Clarke introduced the concept of a space elevator to a broader audience in his 1978 novel The Fountains of Paradise. Since then, the concept has been an inspiration for both science fiction and science alike. In recent years, NASA became interested in developing the highly advanced technology required to bring an elevator into space orbit.
In the picture above, the University of Michigan team’s "MClimber" appears in action.
More details, pictures, and videos are available on the Elevator 2010 website.