Rockets, as we all know, are both fickle and dangerous as transportation to space. Searching for another way out, science fiction master Arthur C. Clarke developed the concept of the space elevator that people and cargo could ride to low Earth orbit. Clarke was a scientist as well as an author, and he had developed the concept of the communications satellite in the 1940s, so his space elevator idea in the 1970s could not simply be dismissed. It wasn't.
The concept is simple enough. One end of a superstrong cable would be attached to Earth; the other end would be attached to a large satellite in geostationary orbit, so the cable would remain taut and fixed in the sky. Add electrical power, and a vehicle could ride the cable to Earth orbit without the use of rockets.
Of course, even if such a system is finally practical, we're a long way from having it. Groups around the world, however, are working on the various challenges that need to be overcome before such a system can be built. Often, the groups are made up of professors and students from a university. NASA is involved with a contest to encourage and reward groups that make progress towards a space elevator, offering $2 million to get good work and solid results. So far, progress has been slow, but scientists and engineers can accomplish remarkable things in the fullness of time.