One of the biggest hurdles to reaching deep space and colonizing other planets is the incredible distances between objects in space and the amount of fuel it would take to reach them. One new theoretical engine, the “EmDrive,” has the potential to change that and help humanity realize our future among the stars.
The controversial “EmDrive” engine has been making headlines since at least 2006. Recently, the engine made waves when a paper outlining its technology and test results was finally accepted by peer review into the prominent American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Journal of Propulsion and Power. Now, a designer of one such engine has brought the radical space tech one step closer to reality by claiming he will send it into space for the first real test of the EmDrive.
If successful, the trials of the EmDrive have the potential to be the first step in enabling human exploration into the vast reaches of deep space. According to some claims, the engine could enable spacecraft to make the journey from Earth to Mars in just seventy days.
The EmDrive works through what is the scientific equivalent of magic, breaking one of the fundamental laws of physics in the process: the law of conservation of momentum. The EmDrive does not use a propellant or fuel, but instead contains an electric generator that sends electromagnetic waves towards the rear of the engine, where they collide with the engine itself, creating thrust. That should create heat and a slight amount of momentum in the opposite direction, according to the laws of physics, but due to the nature of the electromagnetic waves created by the EmDrive, the heat generated is so small as to be physically impossible. Thus, the engine can run “cool” and efficiently while creating massive amounts of thrust.
An American chemical engineer and inventor, Guido Fetta, plans to send his EmDrive into space aboard a tiny CubeSat satellite, where it is planned to orbit the Earth for over six months to demonstrate the feasibility of the drive technology. Keep your fingers crossed - this test could wind up being remembered much in the same way the Wright brother’s flights at Kitty Hawk or the trans-Atlantic voyages of Columbus are today.