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10 questions about Nasa's 'impossible' space drive answered (Wired UK)


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6. How does this get us to Mars?

The small but steady push of the EmDrive is a winner for space missions, gradually accelerating spacecraft to high speed.

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.

How long before Elon Musk commercializes this technology?

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7. What's this about hoverboards and flying cars?

A superconducting version of the EmDrive, would, in principle, generate thousands of times more thrust. And because it does not require energy just to hold things up (just as a chair does not require power to keep you off the ground), in theory you could have a hoverboard which does not require energy to float in the air.

You'll have to provide the lateral thrust yourself though, or expend energy pushing the thing along by other means --- and in any case, superconducting electronics are rather bulky and expensive, so the super-EmDrive is likely to be a few years away.

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