Okay, time for a mind blow. Something that has only been seen in science fiction is finally becoming a reality. Ion engines.
No wait, ion engines have been used in space travel since the 1970’s, and over 240 have been put into space to power satellites and the like. So why are they appearing in the news this week as if they are some new-fangled contraption?
Well, ion engines are very interesting in the sense that they require very little fuel to get going. 100 million times less fuel than a conventional chemical rocket thruster, that is! So if they are so small and efficient, why are we not at Alpha Centauri already?
Ion engines have one major trade-off for their amazing fuel efficiency, they have an extremely short operational lifespan, only around 10,000 working hours. This is because the ion flow degrades the walls of the engine to the point that it no longer functions.
The reason they have reappeared in the news is because a group of scientists in France have created a model that eliminates this deterioration problem by removing the wall in question completely.
Despite this however, these type of thrusters are still far from being understood well enough to scale up to the size and power required to send humans across the solar system but for now, the future of space travel is looking a lot more efficient!
The team has yet to put out a prediction for the implementation of this new format of engine but I would put an educated guess on it being up and running in the next 20 years.
So, although it isn’t yet time to get your tickets booked for your half term holiday to Mars, it’s definitely time to start getting excited in space travel because this Ion engine breakthrough is just one of many exciting new mind-blowing sci-fi technologies that are slowly but surely becoming a reality right now!
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