Earth scientists recently put together designs for an engine capable of placing an astronaut on Mars in only 70 days.
Moviegoers may remember that in the 2015 hit The Martian, Matt Damon finds himself stuck on Mars and engineers all sorts of survival mechanisms. According to his calculations, an Earth rescue mission would need no less than 414 days to come to his aid.
NASA analyzed a new warp drive engine, whose inventor claims that it can reach the Red Planet in about a sixth of that time. Despite the big number of skeptics from the science community, the engine allegedly does its magic by putting bouncing microwaves within an enclosed space to good use.
In case you were wondering, the engine is dubbed EmDrive and is said to work based on electricity coming from solar panels.
Sources indicate that the NASA paper detailing the design and build of the engine successfully went through a rigorous peer review process.
Yahoo reports that the paper will be published by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' Journal of Propulsion and Power. Passing the peer review stage is only a step in the laborious process of turning an idea into a device.
Usually, peer-reviews mean simply that independent experts from various fields read and review the work undertaken, and then label it as having sufficient quality to be a valuable contribution to the respective field. It is far from saying that the results or the conclusion of the paper are correct. Most times, papers get challenged by upcoming works from other scientists, thus expanding the field.
Keep in mind that the concept of an EmDrive is nothing new.
The scientific community has tinkered with the idea for at least 15 years. Roger Shawyer, a United Kingdom-based scientist, was the first to investigate it in 2001.
It is not hard to see the attractiveness of the idea.
Seeing how people from the '70s expected us to have flying cars by now and acknowledging how Sci-Fi is coming back into mainstream with spectacular force, a 10-week trip to the surface of Mars is the least Science can do.
One question that pops up relentlessly from the scientific community refers to the apparent lack of exhaust in the engine.
Newton's third law, "for every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction" has never been challenged, despite tremendous breakthroughs in Science. This would imply that, should a rocket travel one way, something must be going the other way.
Dr. Arto Annila, the lead author of the paper, responds to critics and points out that maybe we lack the means to measure the actual exhaust of the revolutionary engine.
"EmDrive works just like any other engine," he told Daily Mail.
According to the paper, there is a possibility that the photons coming out of the enclosed space are interfering with one another, making it seem like there is no exhaust.
Some were more critical than others with the EmDrive idea.
Colin Johnston, an expert with the Armagh Planetarium, delivered a massive critique of the EmDrive and the shaky findings of numerous tests. Discovery 's Corey S. Powell also indicted Shawyer's EmDrive, and pointed fingers at the precocious enthusiasm that the headline has generated over the internet.
Both scientists underline the importance of discretion when reporting on such potentially history-changing inventions.