NASA EM Drive Successful Test Claims to Defy Known Physics Laws; Interstallar Travel Possible in the Near Future?
NASA Eagleworks, an advanced propulsion study group operating at the NASA's Johnson Space Center, claims to have successfully tested an electromagnetic (EM) propulsion drive in a vacuum, defying classical physics - specifically the law of conservation of momentum.
NASA Eagleworks engineer Paul March reported that NASA was successful in testing the EM drive, the first time any organization succeeded after the international science community was introduced to the concept of EM Drive. The EM Drive concept was put forth by Satellite Propulsion Research Ltd from UK back in 2001 under Robert Shawyer, and stated that electromagnetic microwave cavities might provide for the direct conversion of electrical energy to thrust without the need to expel any propellant. However, a challenge to this concept was that the lack of propellant expulsion would leave nothing to balance the change in the spacecraft's momentum if it were able to accelerate.
In 2010, Chinese scientist Juan Yang published a research regarding the topic and presented the results of it on 2012.
NASA Eagleworks, led by Dr. Harold White, presented their results on July 28-30, 2014, at the 50th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference in Cleveland, Ohio. With more and more scientists becoming convinced at the possibility, it is slowly being re-studied and scrutinized by the community at large.
"In terms of the Station, propellant-less propulsion could amount to significant savings by drastically reducing fuel resupply missions to the Station and eliminate the need for visiting-vehicle re-boost maneuvers," NASA said.
It was quick to add, however, that interstellar travel and warp drive is still unlikely at this point, even with the EM drive.
The EM drive could be used for low Earth orbit operations and space missions to planets outside the solar system. The International Space Station (ISS) also stands to gain from the development of the EM drive.
However, the purported success of the EM drive is being challenged by some.
"It's possible that this is sloppy research by a team of people highly motivated to get a positive result and eager to jump to unwarranted, fantastic conclusions," wrote Ethan Siegel, a professor of physics at Lewis & Clark College in Portland.
He also mentioned that White "is notorious for making extraordinary claims about warp drive and fictitious physics."
Whether or not the EM Drive is going to give the advancement humans need for space travel or other things like renewable energy remains to be seen. It would take several more years of testing and re-testing to really be sure.