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Author Topic: "I gotta get to the Moon in 4 hours!" "No problem--meet the EM Drive."  (Read 1364 times)

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Offline HannibalBarcaTopic starter

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The US, UK, and China have been up to some mind-boggling science and engineering involving propulsion systems:

Evaluating NASA's Futuristic EM Drive

What took Apollo astronauts 2.5 or so days to do, would take an EM Drive-equipped craft four hours.  A trip to Mars has been estimated to take 18 months or so, with an initial launch window that comes around every two years.  An EM Drive would get you there in 90 days.

Want to go to Saturn to check out Titan and Enceladus?  It will take you 9 months to go out that far, instead of 8 or so years.

And most amazing of all--to reach Alpha Centauri, the closest star system to ours at 4.3 light years, with cutting-edge ion drive technology, would take 81,000 years.

With an EM Drive, it would take 130 years.  Too long for any human crew--at least if it wasn't a generation ship (and all the hurdles that entails)...but well within the bounds of an autonomous robotic exploration.  130 years may be just beyond the current maximum human lifetime, but not so for a civilization, and just knowing that detailed data from planets around another star could be in our collective hands 134 years after launch is a powerful motivating factor.

There are those who are skeptical, and rightly so for any scientific endeavor, but just the possibility of such a propulsion unit sets the mind to working on such amazing possibilities...

Offline Inkidu

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I imagine it's an out-of-atmosphere propulsion system?

Still, that's fantastic. Hopefully they can make it even better.

(Wants causal intrasolar travel in his lifetime)

Offline Kythia

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Well that's no good.  I gotta get to the moon in 3 hours.  Jeez, NASA, can't you guys do anything right?

Offline gaggedLouise

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Get me to the World on Time!  ;)


Offline HannibalBarcaTopic starter

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Quote
I imagine it's an out-of-atmosphere propulsion system?

Yes, everything I've read so far indicates it isn't useful--at this point--within the Earth's atmosphere...so normal chemical means would be needed to get into orbit.  After that, however, they indicate that the drive would be perfect for maintaining orbital position and velocity for satellites and space stations.  I saw info saying that a normally 3-ton weight for a satellite could be reduced to 1.3 tons due to propellant not being necessary...and weight is everything with orbital vehicles.

Offline gaggedLouise

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Yes, an amazing concept - but the faster they go, the more devastating would be the effect of a collision with any kind of comet or even a fairly small piece of rock moving about in space, and it would become trickier to spot them, because of the huge distances covered fast. Astronomers do surmise there are wide belts and swarms of comets and small rocks way out around the sun, hundreds of thousands of them, surrounding the sun roving hundreds of times beyond the distance to Neptune and Pluto. Even if most of those won't be very fast - nothing like the speed in orbit of the earth around the sun - still, a collision of one of them with a super-fast spaceship moving at let's say % of the speed of light - roughly a thousand miles per second - would have such a huge combined momentum that it would snuff out the spaceship at once. It would be like lifting an old-style sailing ship up to fifteen miles above the ocean and then dropping it; the ship would break like sticks when it hit the surface....And you bet the Akpha Centauri system (or plainly most normal stars) might have a simiar big cloud of rubble and comets crcling around in the local area, far beyond any planetary system.

 Even the ISS (and its controllers on earth) has to keep a lookout for satelite trash drifting around earth. you get light years out, looking for those small and ark objects from earth isn't an option at all. I suppose thehip would need some kind of very strong rebuff shield to push away those small space rocks - but they could still be much larger than the vehicle itself!
« Last Edit: May 05, 2015, 07:47:58 PM by gaggedLouise »

Offline HannibalBarcaTopic starter

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Yes--micrometeorite damage to astronaut gear has been shown under microscopes--I once saw an electron microscope view of damage to a faceplate--there were long, stretched tubes where the micrometeorite nearly broke through.

As far as further out...the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud definitely have a lot of material to run into, but I suppose it would be a small chance of collision--after all, one of the Voyager or Pioneer probes went through the rings of Saturn and had no collisions.  The distance between material in the rings is further than it looks, and is even further between the comets in the Oort cloud.  Of course, one collision and it's all over, which is why I think, even if the technology works and we use it to send a vehicle to Alpha Centauri, it will certainly be unmanned.  Exploring the solar system with these drives, especially the inner solar system, and Mars and the Moon in particular, sounds like an amazing thing.  The shorter amount of time spent traveling is also a very good thing when considering exposure to cosmic rays.

Offline eBadger

The concept is interesting, but that article is certainly among the more optimistic about it.  And even those travel times are assuming a 100,000% increase in efficiency over numbers that are already said to be pretty inflated.  Still, though, very interesting.  I wish I understood the science better, but the descriptions are either horribly complicated or totally vague. 

As far as ramming debris...eh, it's a thing.  But it's also worth noting how insanely empty space is.  Note that we've sent things through the asteroid belt without a problem, and that's considered quite cluttered; and Earth orbit is a special case, as there's a massive planet sucking things in.  After all, we can see through space - so invisible gases aside, there are more atoms in the thickness of a sheet of paper than lie between us and objects thousands of light years away. 
« Last Edit: May 06, 2015, 12:32:21 PM by eBadger »

Offline Mikem

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There are those who are skeptical, and rightly so for any scientific endeavor, but just the possibility of such a propulsion unit sets the mind to working on such amazing possibilities...

No. Progress has no room for skeptics. We need to just do it. Pool resources with no roadblocks and consider the advances we'd achieve. Most major technological advancements were made during periods of War. When leaders said No, I don't care if you're skeptical we need this, and it was done. Now we just need that mentality for peaceful projects and we'd have colonies on the moon by now.

Japan has built a Maglev rail line and is expanding it. The United States is thinking about high speed rail, but it's already on the backburner for decades because of skeptics and bureaucratic hell holes. And yet things that are common every day items are advanced multitudes faster cause they earn money. My mom grew up being introduced to color TV. I grew up with gigantic, inch thin high definition television screens with LED lighting. Now can we just take that enthusiasm and put it into space travel?

Offline Caehlim

It's fun to imagine. Completely untrue however.

Honestly my problem isn't even breaking the laws of physics. That I can believe. What I can't believe is that a "sales and marketing executive with more than 20 years of experience in the chemical, pharmaceutical and food ingredient industries" isn't selling snake-oil when he claims to have an invention that revolutionizes science as we know it.


Offline MHaji

There's also been a vacuum test, so "ambient conditions" isn't quite right. But "only twitched a little" is right; the forces seem to currently be in the micronewtons.

To call the article "optimistic" is an understatement.

Offline eBadger

No. Progress has no room for skeptics. We need to just do it. Pool resources with no roadblocks and consider the advances we'd achieve.

Ugh, sorry, no.  Incredible Technology is not the answer to all of humanity's woes and the key to self realization.  That was...gods, that was basically the entire Gilded Age.  I'm no luddite, but Neater Machines is not the holy grail of the human experience, and sacrificing individual freedom to achieve it is a horrible idea. 

Japan has built a Maglev rail line and is expanding it. The United States is thinking about high speed rail, but it's already on the backburner for decades because of skeptics and bureaucratic hell holes.

Would maglev trains provide us with a benefit that significantly outweighs the cost of new infrastructure and the waste of destroying existing services, and serves people better than an alternate investment (healthcare, for instance)?  Shipping companies are hardly without funds of their own.  Why do you feel they aren't investing in maglev? 

And yet things that are common every day items are advanced multitudes faster cause they earn money. My mom grew up being introduced to color TV. I grew up with gigantic, inch thin high definition television screens with LED lighting. Now can we just take that enthusiasm and put it into space travel?

Well, money is a medium of personal choice and desire.  Necessities aside, people pay for what they WANT.  It may be a shallow sort of happiness, but I don't begrudge that Average Joe would be happier with a neat new LED screen than watching another NASA launch on his old CRT. 

Also keep in mind that uses such as that have propelled our space program along as well.  Computer advances for guidance and devices for communications with distant objects are leaping forward because of our love for video games and cell phones more than a dedication to a space program.  There is a certain logic in focusing on the possible that we can all use, and waiting until the impossible at least becomes plausible. 

Offline Sadtaco

It's fun to imagine. Completely untrue however.

Honestly my problem isn't even breaking the laws of physics. That I can believe. What I can't believe is that a "sales and marketing executive with more than 20 years of experience in the chemical, pharmaceutical and food ingredient industries" isn't selling snake-oil when he claims to have an invention that revolutionizes science as we know it.


You know it's not the salesman that is doing the science on this, right?
He just invented it in his garage and now NASA and others are evaluating it.

It did more than "twitch a little". It produces consistent thrust, try after try, thousands of tries.
They recently tested it in a hard vacuum.
They believe they've accounted for the magnetic field, but perhaps they haven't.

It could be nothing, but won't find out without more testing.
Yes, it does seemingly break the known laws of physics. Doesn't matter.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2015, 08:43:25 PM by Sadtaco »