Category Archives: Advanced Propulsion

Marching Towards Warp Drive

There is interesting news afoot in particle physics. It seems that some researchers from the University of Rochester have created quasi-particles known as polaritons at room temperature, and these little beauties exhibit behavior of objects of negative mass.

The original Alcubierre Warp Drive theory involved the use of negative energy to achieve a transit method outside of normal spacetime. Of course, Professor Alcubierre’s original estimate of magnitude was unreasonably huge, but the theory has stood up well. What’s been encouraging over the years is work by a number of other physicists to bring that magnitude down to imaginable levels. What’s been even more difficult to grapple has been the negative energy aspect, but with this new work, we now have what looks like negative mass. Given Einstein’s famous equation:

E = mc²

Where E is energy, m is mass, and c is the speed of light, a mass of a negative magnitude should convert to negative energy. That’s a major puzzle piece.

For more, see:

Physicists Say They’ve Created a Device That Generates ‘Negative Mass’


Science: Disciplines Collide to Discover Warp Fields?

h/t to MarsBlog

Based on information here:

And more in-depth technical discussion here:

It seems that work at Johnson Space Center (JSC) on an EmDrive, where microwaves are used to create thrust, may be generating warp bubbles. There is more work to be done to confirm the consistency of the results in a vacuum, but if it is real, wow. Just wow. Even small warp fields would be astounding to find so early in the field of warp science, and would absolutely belie the assumptions on energy densities required to create a spacewarp drive.

Stay tuned…

Ares vs. Luna – Should the Siblings Fight?

I am a very long-time supporter and member of the Moon Society, from way back in the 1990’s, and feel pretty strongly about the need to establish a beachhead on the Moon. There are a number of reasons for this.

It’s stable.

From an orbital consideration, it is an extremely well-known commodity. Many nations have now landed something on the moon, orbited it, or used it as a means of sling-shotting to some other place in the Solar system. We know how to get there, and how to maneuver around it. There is something to be said for consistency. Geologically, it is nearly silent, and between industry and science, the nearly lab-like conditions and vast tableaus have a great deal of value.

It isn’t new.

I know, this doesn’t sound like a great selling point, but hear me out. With the Apollo missions, the Moon has been characterized enough in a few surface locations to build upon, if one takes a more cautious exploration strategy. For all of those detractors of the “flag-n-footprints” nature of the Apollo program, what better way to make lemonade than to actually derive a better and longer-lasting program of habitation based on what we’ve already learned?

It’s geopolitically valuable.

Humans will be humans, and sometimes they will fight. Maybe an economic war, or maybe a hot war, but nations are going to be at opposition of some level at all times in human history. Get used to it. As such, what value can be made of the Moon will initially belong to who lives there first. And I mean lives there, not explore or take a vacation there. Some nation, someday, will claim the place. Functionally, it provides a low-g jumping off point for other places. Militarily, it is the ultimate high ground in the Earth-Moon system. Woe is it to those who lose that race to a belligerent foe.

Of course, in the logic of zero-sum mathematics, there are a lot of people who think that in a finite field of funds, going to the Moon is stale and wasteful compared to Mars. If that is the logic in play, then Mars is also a bad place to go, because Asteroids have a very good chance of repaying the development costs and then eclipsing them in short order. Much shorter than Mars.

But really, the division between the two is a matter of apples-and-oranges, and does nothing but cause feuds between the proponents of the two destinations. As far as I am concerned, if the Triad is the road to the rest of the Solar system, colonizing the Moon is the maturing of the Terrestrial system. Certain circles are taking umbridge that NASA is doing quiet study on going back there, but personally, I think it’s great. I think it’s appropriate. However, Mars missions push us towards technology that we need to go anywhere else nearby, say the moons of Jupiter or Saturn, or even farther afield. Why throw such activity out in a fit of Lunachauvinism, either?

NASA is supposed to look to the future, and it is kind of unrealistic to think that planning for Moon missions would be ignored. Lunar activity doesn’t become any more or less impractical because political winds blow in another direction. Going to Mars is something else we need, too, so we can spread ourselves out and protect the species, and to foster freedom.

Triad – Three Technologies Unite for Mars

VASIMR Plasma Propulsion
Small Fusion Systems
Asteroid Retrieval

In the past few months the three items of my extreme interest have hit the news, and it has me pondering if NASA may be putting together (finally) a real set of architectures for a larger solar system mission. The most recent news about Dr. Franklin Chang-Diaz’s Ad Astra VASIMR getting the go-ahead for a mission seemed like a final puzzle piece falling into place. See:

Could we get to Mars in 39 DAYS? Nasa selects companies to develop super fast deep-space engine

If a mission to places farther than Earth orbit or Mars are to become anything other than naked, skin-of-the-teeth exploration forays, we will have to have propulsion sources like VASIMR. You need something that can cross these larger distances quickly, be reusable and re-directable to multiple destinations, and be able to perform an abort is something goes wrong. VASIMR is capable of doing all of those things.

There was also the news late last year about Lockheed Martin’s small, but high-power-density fusion power plants now in development, discussed here:

Fusion Power May Be On Its Way (Finally)

In short, these are the power systems VASIMR is looking for. They make the mission work.

And now we have OSIRIS-REx going forward with spacecraft assembly for its 2016 launch, announced right on the heels of Asteroid Retrieval Mission (ARM) option B being given the green light for development.

The combination of these three things, the Triad, are the road for development of the solar system. Resource exploitation and permanent human exploration and settlement ride that road.