Incredible Antimatter Engine Could Send Humans To Deep Space In Amazing Speed
A "Star Trek"-like anti-matter engine could send humans to the nearest star in an unexpected speed.
As reported by Astronomy.com, the anti-matter propulsion system is currently being discussed in a short documentary called "Traveling to Alpha Centauri," which was released by Speculative Films. The documentary was done in support of Project Blue.
Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to the Solar System at a distance of 4.37 light-years. Earth Sky said Alpha Centauri is part of a double, or triple, star system. The third star is a red dwarf called Proxima Centauri, our sun's closest neighbor among the stars.
Cosmos Magazine reported that NASA engineer Ronald Litchford laid out in a presentation to the American Astronautical Society in February, a development strategy for propelling spacecraft to deep space.
And one of the proposed strategies is using an antimatter propulsion system.
Litchford notes that antimatter, composed of antiparticles, could provide by far the most efficient propulsion system, with up to 40 percent of the fuel's mass energy being converted directly into thrust.
The idea was proposed by Gerald Jackson, a former Fermilab physicist, and his colleague, physicist Steven Howe. Both have been trying to convince NASA and other investors to notice their idea.
How would it work?
As explained by Popular Science, unlike regular matter, antimatter has atoms with negatively charged core orbited by positively charged particles. And when these two meet, the atoms obliterate each other and release lots of energy in the process. The energy would be so strong that it could destroy 1 kg chunk of the earth. Jackson and his colleague hope to make use of that energy. The antimatter propulsion would cut travel times to the nearby Alpha Centauri star system to less than a decade.
Although the proposal was promising, there are other factors that challenge the rocket. Forbes reported that one of which would be simply finding a sufficient supply of antimatter fuel. Whereas Milky Way is teeming with antimatter, on Earth, antimatter has to be generated in particle physics accelerators at laboratories like Fermilab or CERN. Other concern would be where scientists can store the deadly antimatter once generated.