The speed of light is the fastest speed possible in the Universe, according to an illustrious physicist you might have heard about: Albert Einstein. Any object traveling with the speed of light would have infinite mass; therefore, it’s logically impossible to have more than infinite mass which also logically would be required to achieve a higher speed than the speed of light. Thus, a speed faster than light can’t possibly exist. Modern science confirmed many times what the great German scientist discovered about a century ago. Whether we’re talking about general relativity or the mere existence of atoms, scientists were left speechless by the confirmation of Einstein’s true giftedness.
Therefore, it’s safe to assume that Einstein is right once again, and the speed of light cannot be surpassed. Of course, many of us dreamed about human spaceships achieving speeds faster than light in order to be able to get humans to other galaxies, but it may not be possible. And even the speed of light is not enough considering the vast distances among the Cosmos, but achieving it by humans would be a huge accomplishment. And there is justified hope, according to a NASA engineer.
David Burns proposes the helical engine, capable of light speed
The NASA engineer David Burns proposes a solution to the next-generation space accelerator dubbed the “helical engine”, which is capable of potentially propelling spaceships close to the speed of light. Burns’s alternative for traditional fuel for propelling rockets is a huge helix-shaped engine powered by a particle accelerator.
The idea proposed by the Marshall Space Flight Centre Director has been published to the space agency’s Technical Reports server. He stated:
“This in-space engine could be used for long-term satellite station-keeping without refuelling.
“It could also propel spacecraft across interstellar distances, reaching close to the speed of light.”
How would it work
A particle accelerator would be pushed back and forth along a helix, with the mass increasing as it moves forward, and decreasing as it moves backward. Therefore, a forward acceleration will be produced due to the rotating ion ring that hits the front of the compartment.
There could be several hindrances
Dr Burns’s helical engine would require a very large amount of power: around 125 megawatts just to produce a newton of energy.
Second, the engine will likely violate the laws of the conservation of momentum.
Third, traveling at the speed of light will make time to run a lot faster for the astronauts, comparing to how time flows on Earth. This means that if somebody explores space for several minutes after traveling with a light speed rocket, he will face a dreadful fact when he comes back home – a few years have passed for Earthlings, maybe even decades. This means that if humanity will launch humans into space using a rocket powered by Dr Burns’s helical engine, we might wait for them a long while to come back with the results, and we could literally die waiting. This is the relativity of time, also postulated by Albert Einstein. The flow of time is dependent on speed and gravity, and it’s not the same throughout the whole Universe as scientists once thought.
Despite all this, NASA engineer David Burns is optimistic of his idea, saying for The Scientist:
“I’m comfortable with throwing it out there.
“If someone says it doesn’t work, I’ll be the first to say, it was worth a shot.”
All we have to do is wait and see how NASA will deal with Burns’s helical engine plan. Perhaps we will see relevant experiments in the near future.
We may not like the news of humanity not being able to surpass the speed of light. But unfortunately, the Universe doesn’t care one bit if we like its laws or not. Physics is not politics to be manipulated. The laws of nature and, therefore, The Architect of the Universe could not be submissive to humans’ will.