Scientists have been debating the EmDrive test results for months now, with no resolution in sight. Even the publication of a peer-reviewed article in a professional journal hasn’t quieted things down. On the contrary, those insisting that the drive can’t possibly work are even more adamant. Is it finally time to test the EmDrive in space?
What is the EmDrive?
According to its proponents, the EmDrive is a revolutionary new propulsion system that can slash the travel time between the Earth and other bodies in our solar system, such as the moon and Mars. If this drive actually works as advertised, it would allow a manned vessel to travel from Earth orbit to Mars in only 70 days – perhaps even less. Currently, it takes approximately 6 months to get to Mars.
But as noted by ABC News, the problem with the EmDrive is that it shouldn’t work. Even though multiple labs around the world seem to have had test results confirming that it does produce a small amount of thrust, according to physics as we understand, it this should be impossible.
This is because the EmDrive has no propellant and produces no exhaust. It simply bounces microwaves around inside an enclosed cavity and purportedly somehow produces thrust that pushes against one end of the cavity. This is in defiance of Newtonian physics, which states that each force applied must have an equal and opposite reaction.
It’s as if you were to sit in your car and pushed on the dashboard in the expectation that the car would actually move forward. Of course, we all know that’s not going to happen. However, something very similar seems to be happening when scientists at NASA labs and elsewhere switch on the EmDrive.
The EmDrive Peer-Reviewed Paper
The release of a peer-reviewed paper in a professional journal would on the surface seem like a powerful rebuttal for those doubters who believe that the EmDrive can’t possibly work. But given the nature of this discovery – if it is a discovery – extremely clear and indisputable proof will be required to dispel any doubts.
Currently, most of those criticizing this research feel that – despite their best efforts – the researchers involved have failed to take into account factors that might have produced a false result. One of the things they had pointed to previously in prior experiments had been the fact that heating might have been causing thermal effects that created thrust. So the researchers put the device in a vacuum, and it still worked.
Even so, most scientists aren’t going to be convinced on till they see definitive proof. While there have been a number of experiments carried out at labs around the world, including in the United States, China, and Europe, most physicists are reluctant to even discuss the possibility that the EmDrive works, since it would make them look like quacks in the eyes of their colleagues.
To remove all doubt that the EmDrive actually works and produces thrust without the use of any propellant, it might finally be time for NASA or SpaceX to attach one of these drives to a small spacecraft and launch into orbit.
It doesn’t have to be a big affair. Something the size of a bread box would be sufficient, since all it would need are simple electronics and solar panels to provide the power for the drive – as well as the drive itself of course.
As pointed out by Popular Mechanics, an Italian engineer named Guido Fetta who has constructed a similar drive known as the Cannae Drive hopes to launch his drive in a small cubesat aboard a correspondingly small rocket. Once in orbit, his drive would attempt to maintain the cubesat’s position in orbit.
If this small satellite were launched into orbit with no other propulsion and was able to maintain itself in orbit on an ongoing basis – or even push itself into a higher orbit – this would provide indisputable EmDrive test results that it actually works and that an entire new era of space travel might be about to begin.
[Featured Image by NASA]