'Impossible' engine could get us to the Moon in mere four hours

When nearly 15 years ago British inventor Roger Shawyer came up with the concept of the electromagnetic propulsion drive (EmDrive), his idea was ridiculed by the scientific community as being both theoretically and practically impossible.

Shawyer’s EmDrive produces thrust by harnessing solar power to generate multiple microwaves that move back and forth in an enclosed chamber. This means that unless something fails or wears down, the engine could theoretically keep running forever without the need for fuel.

If true, this certainly has the potential to revolutionise space travel - admitted Prof Tajmar at the 2015 Propulsion and Energy Forum and Exposition event

The perpetuum mobile like drive has left scientists scratching their heads because it seemingly defies one of the fundamental principles of physics – the conservation of momentum – a law which states that if something is propelled forward, equally, something must be pushed in the opposite direction. Therefore, according to the above law, the forces inside the chamber should cancel each other out.

However, in recent years NASA scientists conceded that the EmDrive might in fact work, although they still have no workable theory how it actually functions, with the preliminary results suggesting that the effect could have something to do with the technology manipulating subatomic particles which constantly pop in and out of existence in empty space.

Moreover, Martin Tajmar, a professor and chair for Space Systems at Dresden University of Technology in Saxony, Germany also recently confirmed that the engine produces thrust. Prof Tajmar presented his findings to the 2015 Propulsion and Energy Forum and Exposition of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics:

Shawyer’s peculiar EmDrive has left scientists scratching their heads because it seemingly defies one of the fundamental principles of physics – the conservation of momentum.

“Our test campaign cannot confirm or refute the claims of the EmDrive but intends to independently assess possible side-effects in the measurements methods used so far.” said Prof Tajmar cautiously, before adding:

“Nevertheless, we do observe thrust close to the actual predictions, after eliminating many possible error sources, that should warrant further investigation into the phenomenon.”

“After carefully studying thermal and electromagnetic interferences, our measurements revealed thrusts as expected from previous claims.”

“If true, this could certainly revolutionise space travel.”


Of course, there is a long way from the theoretical concept to the practical applications, but if Shawyer is proven right, viable interplanetary travel could be a step closer. The EmDrive is capable of producing thrust several thousand times greater than a standard photon rocket and could get us to the Moon in mere 4 hours (for comparison, Apollo 11 needed full 3 days to reach our satellite). Similarly, a spacecraft powered by the EmDrive could reach Mars in 70 days or Pluto in 18 months (journeys that take approx. 200 days and 9 years respectively when using the currently available rocket engines). Perhaps even the manned interstellar travel may one day be possible, as a trip to the closest solar system Alpha Centauri, which would take tens of thousands of years with the present technology, could be undertaken in just 100 years in a EmDrive-fitted generation spaceship.

Shawyer was recently quoted as saying that he is only a few months away from publishing new results, confirming that his EmDrive indeed works, in a peer reviewed journal.