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"...science fiction is sort of like a sociological genome. It's a huge range of possible futures, most of them useless; some vital. You never really know in advance."
- Peter Watts

Spider Space Elevator Test Vehicle  
  A robotic testing device for the cables of a space elevator.  

Once you have the cable strung between an object in orbit, and the base station on Earth, you still need to test the cable.

The flimsy spider - a prototype test vehicle that looked like a motorized bo'sun's chair - had already made a dozen ascents to twenty kilometers, with twice the load it would be carrying now. There had been the usual teething problems, but nothing serious; the last five runs had been completely trouble-free. And what could go wrong? If there was a power failure - almost unthinkable in such a simple battery-operated system - gravity would bring Duval safely home, the automatic brakes limiting the speed of descent.
From The Fountains of Paradise, by Arthur C. Clarke.
Published by Ballantine in 1978
Additional resources -

In it's simplest form, a bosun's chair is just a board attached to a rope that runs up the tall mast of a ship, through a pulley, and back down. The ship's officer in charge of deck crews and ship maintenance (the 'boatswain', which is pronounced 'bosun') sits carefully on the board, When sailors on deck haul on the rope, the bosun's chair rises up the mast, allowing the officer to inspect the ship's rigging.

The idea of a bosun's chair that rises upward for many kilometers is sort of breathtaking for anyone who has used one of these chairs to fix a problem on a small boat.

Devices like this have already been tested for use on space elevator ribbons; see the related resource link below.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Fountains of Paradise
  More Ideas and Technology by Arthur C. Clarke
  Tech news articles related to The Fountains of Paradise
  Tech news articles related to works by Arthur C. Clarke

Spider Space Elevator Test Vehicle-related news articles:
  - Liftport Closer To Space Elevator Goal
  - Robotic Cable Inspection System

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