A Star Trek “Impulse Drive” Could Open Up the Solar System

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A Star Trek “Impulse Drive” Could Open Up the Solar System

As Wernher von Braun, one of the leading pioneers of twentieth century space rocket technology once admitted, “I have learned to use the word ‘impossible’ with the greatest caution.” 

That’s worth remembering as NASA has just published research that suggests that a design for a spacecraft engine that was dismissed by many scientists as “impossible” a few years ago just might be possible after all. 

If it works, the new type of engine—called an impulse drive, or an electromagnetic drive, or EmDrive—would be capable of boosting a spacecraft into deep space, without using any type of propellant.  According to a report in National Geographic, the EmDrive “converts electricity into thrust simply by bouncing around microwave photons in a closed asymmetrical cavity that is shaped like a cone.  In theory, such a lightweight engine could one day send a spacecraft to Mars in just seventy days.”1

There’s just one problem.  According to the laws of physics, the EmDrive shouldn’t work.  Even the minority of scientists who believe it does work can’t explain why it does.

In 1687, Sir Isaac Newton formulated his Third Law, which asserts that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  This law is the basis for every type of machine man has invented.  For example, a jet engine expels hot gases backward in order to generate thrust that moves the jet forward.

But the EmDrive moves forward without expelling anything behind it.  There’s no “opposite reaction” to create the “action” in Newton’s Third Law—so theoretically, it’s impossible.

As a result, many physicists have claimed the whole concept is a hoax, while pointing to the lack of any findings published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, with independent scientists verifying that the methodology, results, and conclusions are all reasonable.  But now they can no longer use that argument.  A team of researchers at NASA’s Advanced Propulsion Physics Research Laboratory (known as Eagleworks) has just published evidence that the engine produces thrust in the peer-reviewed Journal of Propulsion and Power.2

According to their paper, titled “Measurement of Impulsive Thrust from a Closed Radio-Frequency Cavity in Vacuum,” when the EmDrive’s photons bounce around and collide with the walls of the closed chamber, they create enough energy to push the system forward...

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