After news that the EmDrive, a spacecraft propulsion system that uses "microwave technology to convert electrical energy directly into thrust," appears to work, Wired has answered 10 questions about NASA's impossible space drive. While FTL is still a long way to go, the technology could potentially let humans reach Mars in 28 days.
The Nasa paper projects a 'conservative' manned mission to Mars from Earth orbit, with a 90-ton spacecraft driven by the new technology. Using a 2-megawatt nuclear power source, it can develop 800 newtons (180 pounds) of thrust. The entire mission would take eight months, including a 70-day stay on Mars.
This compares with Nasa's plans using conventional technology which takes six months just to get there, and requires several hundred tons to be put into Earth's orbit to start with. You also have to stay there for at least 18 months while you wait for the planets to align again for the journey back. The new drive provides enough thrust to overcome the gravitational attraction of the Sun at these distances, which makes manoeuvring much easier.
A less conservative projection has an advanced drive developing ten times as much thrust for the same power -- this cuts the transit time to Mars to 28 days, and can generally fly around the solar system at will, a true Nasa dream machine.
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