The extremely exciting EM Drive, which could offer high-speed propulsion without fuel, has been confirmed as a working invention.
The drive, which has been compared to Star Trek's impulse drive, was said to be impossible when British inventor Roger Shawyer created it. Nasa reported back in August that it might work and now independent scientific research has confirmed it.
The EM Drive should be able to propel a craft to the Moon in just four hours. And it can do it without fuel. This opens up huge possibilities for interstellar space travel.
Using the drive it could be possible to reach Mars in just 70 days or Pluto, at the end of our solar system, in just 18 months. Alpha Centauri, the closest star system to our sun, would currently take tens of thousands of years to reach but with this drive we could get there in 100 years.
The EM Drive works using solar power to generate multiple microwaves. These move back and forward in an enclosed chamber to produce drive. This should mean there is no need for fuel and very little chance of any wear.
The reason the drive was pooh-poohed as impossible initially is because it defies a fundamental law of physics. The law states that if something is propelled forward something must be pushed in the opposite direction.
Now both Nasa and Professor Martin Tajmar, at Dresden University of Technology, have confirmed that the drive appears to produce the force suggested. The professor says: "[…]we do observe thrust close to the actual predictions after eliminating many possible error sources that should warrant further investigation into the phenomena."
Nasa says a possible explanation could be that the technology manipulates subatomic particles which constantly pop in and out of existence in empty space.
The EM Drive inventor Roger Shawyer says he is just months away from publishing new results, in a peer reviewed journal, confirming that his drive works.