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NASA's EmDrive thruster just took an important leap forward

The dream of the EmDrive, a futuristic space propulsion engine capable of getting us to Mars in a matter of weeks, may sound like science-fiction — but it’s just taken one big leap toward being science-fact.

That’s because a paper describing how it can achieve thrust has reportedly passed the peer review process and is all set to be published by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ AIAA Journal of Propulsion and Power.

Written by scientists at the NASA Eagleworks Laboratories, the paper’s successful passing of rigorous academic scrutiny was confirmed by independent scientist Dr. José Rodal on NASA’s Spaceflight forum — only for the comment to be quickly deleted.

The paper is entitled “Measurement of Impulsive Thrust from a Closed Radio Frequency Cavity in Vacuum.” It’s exciting because it suggests that EmDrive technology is getting closer than ever. Engineer Paul March of NASA’s experimental Eagleworks Laboratories confirmed that a paper on EmDrive was going ahead earlier this year, but he didn’t sound too much hopeful when he noted that “peer reviews are glacially slow.”

Related: Here’s the 411 on the EmDrive, the ‘physics-defying’ thruster even NASA is puzzled over

For those unfamiliar with it, the propellantless propulsion system EmDrive was first designed by aerospace engineer Roger Shawyer back in 2001 — offering a way to make aircraft lighter, faster, and (possibly) cheaper since they won’t have to carry fuel. The reason for skepticism in some quarters has come because it appears to defy Newton’s conservation of momentum law, stating that an object won’t move unless some outside force is applied.

That skepticism has made even respected publications like New Scientist question how much space they should be dedicating to a concept which seems to defy much of what we know about the way the physical world works.

Hopefully, the publishing of a peer-reviewed article on EmDrive will answer a few more of those questions.