China’s ‘physics-defying’ EmDrive could allow journey to Mars in weeks

China's announcement would put them ahead of NASA in the race for an EM Drive. © Liu Kun / Global Look Press

A mysterious propulsion system that ‘defies physics’ may be close to reality in China, where scientists say they have finished work on the EmDrive. Much sought after by space agencies, the system could potentially allow for travel to Mars in weeks.

Scientists in China claim to have developed a working prototype of the EmDrive, according to state TV, with a test due to take place in space in the near future. Developed by scientist Dr Chen Yue at the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), it would put China’s space agency ahead of NASA.

The EmDrive is key to the future of space exploration, eliminating the need for a conventional propellant to produce thrust. “For every action there must be an equal and opposite reaction,” Newton’s Third Law states, emphasising the need for propellant in all modes of travel.

China claims to have defied that law, producing an EmDrive that produces thrust by bouncing microwaves around in a closed container with no propellant required. In theory, this is the equivalent of “trying to pull yourself up by your shoelaces and hoping you’ll levitate,” Steven Thomson of the University of St Andrews said in 2015.

A leaked paper from NASA last year showed the drive was possible and that the space agency was busy at work on their own version. Their theorized model could generate approximately 1.2 millinewtons of thrust per kilowatt were the power input to be scaled up.

In comparison, one of the most powerful thrusters in development and powered by ejecting plasma, the Hall thruster, generates about 60 millinewtons of thrust per kilowatt, reported Next Big Future.