Are NASA Emdrive tests likely to be accelerated in light of the recent announcement by the Chinese government that they have already been testing the drive in orbit themselves? The Emdrive is seemingly a revolutionary technology that somehow, no one has a clear explanation, generates thrust without expelling propellant of any kind.
If the Chinese space authorities, as Popular Science reports, are already seeing successful Emdrive test results in space, NASA might want to fast-track its own research.
Tests conducted by the NASA Eagleworks lab over the last few years seem to have confirmed that this highly unorthodox and controversial propulsion system may just work. The Emdrive operates by bouncing microwaves around inside a conical shaped cone that resembles a rocket engine nozzle with the end sealed off.
A conventional rocket engine operates by expelling heated propellant out of the rocket nozzle to produce thrust. This is true whether the rocket uses liquid or solid rocket fuel. But this doesn’t seem to be the case with the Emdrive.
As reported by Tech Times, the NASA Emdrive tests carried out by physicist Sonny White and his team at Eagleworks seem to show a small but consistent thrust being produced by the mechanism when it is in operation, despite the fact that no propellant is being used to produce this thrust.
The Emdrive was originally created, in a slightly different incarnation, by British inventor Roger Shawyer. The version that NASA is currently testing on the ground, referred to as the Cannae Drive, was created by Italian researcher Guido Fetta.
With the recent publication of the results of NASA Emdrive tests in a peer-reviewed journal, Fetta has suggested he now wants to test a small version of his Cannae Drive in orbit to confirm it actually works. Presumably, this would remove any doubts skeptics might still have.
Emdrive tests, if validated, suggest that a functioning drive based on this technology could eventually allow ships to leave Earth orbit and arrive at Mars in only 70 days. If the technology could be refined further, perhaps through better understanding the principles upon which it operates, this performance might even be improved.
Being able to travel to Mars in 70 days instead of 6-12 months would vastly reduce the costs and dangers involved in a manned Mars mission and the creation of Martian colonies. For instance, one of the principal concerns that people have raised about sending humans to Mars is the long travel time, during which they would be exposed to various types of space-based radiation.
Emdrive tests already conducted by the Chinese, apparently in orbit as well, may well mean that China has pulled a Sputnik on NASA and the United States. In the late 1950s, the space race had not yet begun when Russia shocked the world by becoming the first nation to put a satellite in orbit.
The launch of Sputnik had the effect of kicking the U.S. space program into high gear. If the Chinese have leaped ahead of the United States in the testing and use of Emdrive technology, will the United States once again pour money into the effort and overtake the Chinese? It seems likely NASA will try.
After all, the principal reason the United States went to the moon was to tout the superiority of the American system, government, and technology. That’s why, once Apollo was over, we essentially stopped going anywhere in deep space, except for unmanned missions.
So the NASA Emdrive tests currently under consideration may well be, and perhaps should be, fast-tracked to avoid letting the Chinese build an insurmountable lead in space propulsion technology. Otherwise, deep space could become the exclusive province of the Chinese government.