NASA has one more reason to step up its efforts to send out people to the Red Planet. Recently, a team of scientists from NASA’s experimental jet propulsion laboratory has successfully tested the first working electromagnetic drive, a device that has been the in the center of a scientific controversy for a very long time.
The idea of creating an engine based solely on EM properties has been around since the ‘90s. However, many scientists from around the world have declared that the concept is flawed since it clearly defies the laws of physics.
More specifically, an electromagnetic drive would violate Newton’s third law of motion which states that thrust cannot be created if something doesn’t push in the opposite direction. As a result, the project was abandoned, and other venues of research were pursued.
But the recent development proved not only can this type of drive exist, but that it can also be adapted to power a shuttlecraft.
As the scientists explain, the experimental engine fires up high-intensity microwaves into a copper chamber. Since the chamber has a conic shape, the microwaves will bounce against its walls, determining the whole assembly to move.
According to the team of scientists in charge of the project, the electromagnetic drive has already been tested under vacuum conditions in order to assess how the engine will behave in space-like conditions. During the tests, the engine achieved a top speed of approximately 1,000 meters per second.
This may not sound as much, but according to the team, a craft outfitted with an electromagnetic drive will be able to complete the journey to the Red Planet in less than 70 days. Equipped with a traditional jet-fuel-powered engine assembly, a shuttle will need at least 300 days to complete the same trip.
At this moment, the team is performing additional tests on the electromagnetic drive to determine if the results of their initials tests are consistent or if there was a fluke.
The results of their experiments were published in a scientific journal and were immediately subjected to peer review. According to the scientific board which reviewed their findings, their data is valid.
The electromagnetic drive experiment did not only prove that space exploration can become efficient, but that we can also bend the laws of physics to our will and that nothing in written in stone.
Image source: Wikipedia