As the future of human space flight enters the exciting new age of private investment and industry (the single greatest hope for deep space exploration), NASA still continues to be the world’s premier developer of groundbreaking space technologies. NASA’s latest creation is the development of a cutting edge xenon-ion spaceship engine, and with its electric blue hue it looks like something straight out of STAR TREK. Jacob Aron of New Scientist writes:
“The image [below] shows the small blue jet of the thruster framed in the white-blue porthole of a vacuum chamber where it is being tested at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The blue glow comes from photons released by the ions as they lose energy upon leaving the engine. Spacecraft normally use chemical rocket engines, which produce a lot of thrust but gorge on fuel and burn out quickly. This makes them great drag racers for escaping Earth’s gravity, but less useful as cruisers for meandering around the solar system. The solar-electric propulsion thruster pictured [below] ditches burning chemical fuel for xenon ions accelerated by an electric field generated using solar panels. This provides a steady stream of ions that can slowly nudge a spacecraft to high speeds with minimal fuel, making it a good choice for long-range missions.” You can read the full story by visiting the amazingness that is NewScientist.com.
Adding to the latest examples of new technologies echoing the visionary designs of science fiction films, we can now safely say we live in a world where lightsabers are a very real thing. A laser enthusiast recently built his own custom homemade lightsaber using a monster 3W laser “made from a diode taken out of a DLP projector bolted to two high-power lithium ion laptop batteries, [which] is capable of burning straight through paper, cardboard, wood, and even a ping pong ball.”
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