NASA has successfully tested a type of "warp drive" popularized in the science fiction franchise "Star Trek" that could allow spaceships to travel at near light speed without using rocket fuel.
NASA announced on Wednesday that a team working at the Johnson Space Center tested the electromagnetic propulsion drive in a vacuum.
"Thrust measurements of the EM Drive defy classical physics' expectations that such a closed (microwave) cavity should be unusable for space propulsion because of the law of conservation of momentum," wrote José Rodal, Jeremiah Mullikin and Noel Munson for NASA Spaceflight.com
"The concept of an EM Drive as put forth by (Satellite Propulsion Research Ltd.) was that electromagnetic microwave cavities might provide for the direct conversion of electrical energy to thrust without the need to expel any propellant," they wrote.
NASA scientists said the warp drive would allow man-made spaceships to reach Mars in 70 days, noted the website.
"A 90 metric ton, 2 MegaWatt nuclear electric propulsion mission to Mars (would have) considerable reduction in transit times due to having a thrust-to-mass ratio greater than the gravitational acceleration of the sun," Harold "Sonny" White of the Johnson Space Center told NASA Spaceflight.com.
Scientists stressed, according to The Verge's Jacob Kastrenakes
, that testing is just at the beginning stage but without the need for rocket fuel in space, it could reduce the volume that NASA and other space providers need to initially launch out of Earth's orbit.
"There's obviously still quite a bit of work to be done here," Kastrenakes wrote. "NASA, through its Eagleworks lab, reportedly intends to do further tests on EM Drives in a vacuum after seeing these latest results. Should the drive pan out one day, the belief is that it would dramatically reduce the weight of what NASA has to launch into space."
Paul March, an engineer with the Johnson Space Center, told CNET.com
that the drive could solve a "fundamental problem that has been hindering manned spaceflight from the termination of the Apollo moon program. That being the availability of a robust and cost-effective power and propulsion technology that can break us loose from the shackles of the rocket equation."
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