For those of you who have read any of my Colony Mars series, you may have spotted that the engine used by the Odyssey Mars transit craft is an EmDrive. This makes a journey time of 10 weeks possible, as opposed to the 6-8 months required by traditional chemical rockets.
But of course this is science fiction — or is it? Well, we’re soon going to find out.
Sometime next year, all going well, a small satellite with an EmDrive will be launched into orbit. If it’s still there after six weeks then we may be entering an exciting new era of space exploration. If instead, it starts falling back down to Earth, well then it’s back to the drawing board.
Currently, lab tests with the EmDrive show that it works, but it has a major flaw — nobody can explain why without deifying the laws of Newtonian physics. So any positive results shown in labs must be down to some error in the test setup, or so the critics of the device insist. But time and time again, in test after test, the device just seems to work, making a lot of heads scratch in the process.
Over the years I’ve followed a lot of new ‘wacky’ ideas and inventions that have burst on to the scene, heralding a brave new world. Only to see them fail at the first attempt to replicate the inventors assertions. Anyone remember Cold Fusion?
The problem with most of these ideas is that they fail once a third party lab puts it to the test. But this is definitely not the case with the EmDrive, in fact it’s the exact opposite — it keeps working. The real problem is nobody is sure why.
But is that such a big issue? If it works then who cares? Well, yes and no.
If there are question marks around the validity of the current experimental results then this hampers any quest to find out how it works. By understanding the ‘how’ only then can we can push to improve it and scale up.
So by doing an actual test in space we will finally put an end to the speculation. Because if it works, then space just got a whole lot smaller.
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