Space travel is nothing new to us Earthlings. However, the more we discover, the more curious we get. So curious, that scientists are beginning to develop better ways to travel in space. NASA scientist Philip Lubin is one of the most curious minds out there. He’s working on using lasers to propel a spacecraft to Mars in a matter of days, not months. Three days to be specific.
By using an electromagnetic propulsion system and Lubin’s own theory, which uses light rays instead of regular old fuel, Lupin and other scientists are hoping to get spacecraft to travel at higher speeds and reach destinations like Mars very quickly. So quickly, we could get to Mars in 3 days.
Mission: Almost Impossible… For Now
Electromagnetic propulsion is not a foreign idea to many scientists. It’s a proven method, but now scientists are trying to find a way to make it work on a much larger scale. When magnets reach very low cool temperatures, they begin to vibrate. According to David Goodwin, a program manager at the Office of High Energy and Nuclear Physics at the U.S. Department of Energy, if this vibration can be contained in one direction, enough of a jolt could be produced to help send a spacecraft farther and faster into space. This would be faster than any other propulsion method currently in development.
Mars in 3 days? What’s the big idea?
Lubin has introduced the use of light and radiation to electromagnetic propulsion, which is meant to create an even bigger force for the rocket to travel. So the idea behind this process is to create a force using magnets and light rays. This could not only assist in faster space travel, but also help reduce the use of rocket fuel for missions and save both money and emissions in the long-run. NASA also seems to agree, as it has approved a $100,000 NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts grant to help fund the project.
The process Lubin has suggested works a lot like the way a sail on a sailboat works. However, instead of relying on wind, he will use light. First, a laser array would be placed in Earth’s orbit and used to propel a solar sail. The solar sail would be attached to a ship that is traveling, and when the light is reflected off of the solar sail, it creates a push for the ship to move – hopefully at a much faster speed.
How fast will it go?
According to Lubin, if the craft is super light, fuel-less, and frictionless, it could reach speeds of around 621 miles per second, which is approximately 30% of the speed of light. This speed was unheard of up to this point, even though we already have all of the technology needed to accomplish this currently-hypothetical task.
Just as with any mission in space, especially one with new concepts and ideas, this one comes with its own set of difficulties. From unexpected space debris that the spacecraft may not be able to handle due to its fragility, to the possibility of the spacecraft being unable to return from Mars due to a lack of the laser array needed to push it, there are still a few kinks to work out in this theory. Creating a way to travel to Mars in a matter of just a few days sounds like a feat for the millennium, but only further experiments and development will tell us if we are truly ready for something so advanced.