It may not take many moons to reach the moon. (Photo: NASA)
Will we one day be traveling in a cool space machine like something out of Star Wars? We will if NASA has anything to say about it.
The company recently announced on its website NASASpaceFlight.com that it has successfully tested a new way to travel through space that could one day get you to the moon in the same amount of time as it takes to fly across the country.
The vehicle would carry about half a dozen passengers, plus their luggage, to the moon in about four hours. (For context, it originally took Neil Armstrong and his Apollo 11 crew exactly four days, six hours, and 45 minutes to reach the moon.) Or, to go even more extreme, it could take you to faraway star Alpha Centauri in less than a century, at almost one-tenth the speed of light.
Related: Mark Zuckerberg: Virtual Reality is the Future of Travel
The technology that may make the fast travel happen, called the electromagnetic drive, or EM drive, has actually been around for the past 15 years or so. But it hasn’t gained as much traction as you’d think because it’s fairly controversial, in that it seems to violate the classic laws of physics. (For those who are interested in these things: The law of conservation of momentum states that momentum can only be changed by one of the forces described by Newton’s laws of motion. And yet, the EM drive creates momentum without doing so.)
Space travel may soon be just as fast as travel on Earth. (Photo: Getty Images)
Now, don’t go packing your moon bag just yet. The technology is still in testing right now at the Johnson Space Center in Texas. It will also require many more tests, in order to verify that it’s legitimate. Any space vehicle that uses an EM drive in the future will need to have a nuclear power plant on board that still needs to be developed for use in space.
Related: The Future of Airplanes Could Be a Windowless Jet
In the meantime, the engineer who is working on the EM drive, Paul March, explained to cnet.com that his work on the EM drive could be “a robust and cost-effective power and propulsion technology that can break us loose from the shackles of the rocket equation.”
It may also break us loose from the notion that flying Star Wars style only happens in the movies.