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A group of NASA scientists have been working on a potentially revolutionary space engine that doesn't require rocket fuel and could make a trip to Mars in just 10 weeks. Or, they could be looking at a scientific error in violation of one of classical physics' core rules. They've been trying to figure out which it is for months, and now newly released test results are ruling out the prevailing hypothesis for why what they're looking at is an error, according to NASASpaceflight. In a thorough breakdown of the new engine, called an EM Drive, NASASpaceflight calls these recent tests a major breakthrough in NASA's research.
New Scientist article
After receiving criticism that no peer-reviewed publications on the subject had been made, Shawyer submitted a theory paper to New Scientist, a weekly popular science magazine. The EmDrive was featured on the cover of the 8 September 2006 issue of the magazine. The article portrayed the device as plausible, and emphasized the arguments of those who held that point of view.
Science fiction author Greg Egan, who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from the University of Western Australia, distributed a public letter stating that "a sensationalist bent and a lack of basic knowledge by its writers" made the magazine's coverage unreliable, sufficient "to constitute a real threat to the public understanding of science". In particular, Egan found himself "gobsmacked by the level of scientific illiteracy" in the magazine's coverage of the EmDrive, stating that New Scientist employed "meaningless double-talk" to obfuscate the relation of Shawyer's proposed space drive to the principle of conservation of momentum. Egan urged those reading his letter to write to New Scientist and pressure the magazine to raise its standards, instead of "squandering the opportunity that the magazine's circulation and prestige provides" for genuine science education. The letter was endorsed by mathematical physicist John C. Baez and posted on his blog. Egan also recommended that New Scientist publish a refutation penned by John P. Costella (a data scientist with a PhD in theoretical physics) of Shawyer's paper.
The following month, the New Scientist editor addressed the ensuing controversy over the article stating that "[w]e should have made more explicit where it apparently contravenes the laws of nature and reported that several physicists declined to comment on the device because they thought it too contentious."
A group at NASA’s Johnson Space Center has successfully tested an electromagnetic (EM) propulsion drive in a vacuum – a major breakthrough for a multi-year international effort comprising several competing research teams. Thrust measurements of the EM Drive defy classical physics’ expectations that such a closed (microwave) cavity should be unusable for space propulsion because of the law of conservation of momentum.