Warp Speed Ahead! Is Traveling at the Speed of Light Just Around the Corner?
Yes. You read that title right. We’re talking about the warp drive. Recent whispers from the space travel rumor mill had suggested that NASA was on the brink of transforming interplanetary travel by creating a way for spacecraft to travel at speeds approaching the speed of light. What started out as hopeful speculation was finally confirmed by NASA on May 5th, 2015 and from that moment science fiction took a giant leap towards actual scientific fact.
Just how close are we to warp speed travel? The simple answer is very. The major cornerstone in light speed travel has officially been laid with Johnson Space Center’s new prototype engine, an electromagnetic (EM) drive. The device works by propelling objects through space by using magnets to produce microwaves, which are then sent through a device to create thrust.
Ironically, exactly how the EM drive achieves this currently defies classical conceptions of physics, because the thrust of the EM drive occurs in the vacuum sealed space used to create the microwaves. The fact that thrust is occurring in that vacuum cavity should be impossible as it violates a law of physics, the law of conservation of momentum.
Still, the fact that the prototype functions means that there’s still a lot to be discovered about how exactly the EM drive is doing what it is designed to do. The great part of this technology is that the thrust created by the EM drive is incredibly powerful with current speed projections coming in at around 10% the speed of light, faster than any manmade object has ever travelled before.
Another incredible thing about the EM drive is that it does not rely on fossil fuels to run. This solves the issues of fuel storage and consumption, two of the major setbacks currently facing extended space travel.
All of these factors would increase the speed of interplanetary travel exponentially. So if you were craving some adventure, a trip to Mars could take place in just two months as opposed to ten years. Feel like taking a day trip to the moon? EM drive space travel will have you there in just four short hours.
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