It took New Horizons more than nine years to reach Pluto, but a craft powered by an EMDrive could make it in less than two. Photo: NASA
Ridiculed as impossible by the scientific community, the electromagnetic propulsion engine – which could supposedly take a craft from Earth to Pluto in just 18 months without the need for rocket fuel – has apparently been confirmed by an independent scientist as working.
German scientist Martin Tajmar, who has a history of debunking fanciful propulsion systems, claims in a paper he has tested a copy of NASA’s experimental device (known as the EMDrive) and that it does produce thrust. This is controversial because the theory that has been used to explain the device violates conventional physics and the law of conservation of momentum.
The EMDrive is complete crap and a waste of time.
The EMDrive theoretically works by converting electric power into microwaves which bounce around inside an enclosed cavity, using the difference in radiation to move through an environment. This violates the laws of physics, which state that if something moves forward it must also push something back, as no propellant is expelled to balance the engine’s momentum.
The original EmDrive was invented nearly 15 years ago, but its use has been consistently ridiculed as scientifically impossible.
Despite appearing to contradict our understanding of physics, NASA’s tests of the device (which has been described by overenthusiastic media as an attempt to make a Star Trek warp drive) inexplicably produced a thrust in 2014. If the results were accurate, a much larger version of the device could have incredible implications on future space travel and colonisation, as well as on vehicles and buildings.
Tajmar’s tests were apparently an attempt to replicate NASA’s work and see the results for himself. He was careful to state his testing cannot explicitly confirm or refute the claims of how the EMDrive works, only that the thrust produced is consistent with those claims, even in a vacuum.
“We do observe thrust close to the actual predictions after eliminating many possible error sources that should warrant further investigation into the phenomena,” Tajmar says.
Predictably, many in the scientific community remain unconvinced.
“My insight is that the EMDrive is complete crap and a waste of time,” American physicist Sean Carroll told tech site io9. “Right there in the abstract this paper says, ‘Our test campaign can not confirm or refute the claims of the EMDrive’, so I’m not sure what the news is. I’m going to spend my time thinking about ideas that don’t violate conservation of momentum.”
Professor Tajmar presented his paper, which is not peer-reviewed, at the 2015 American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Propulsion and Energy Forum and Exposition this week.