It could carry astronauts to Mars in less than 13 minutes, or to the Moon in just over a second. Dr David Burns, from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Centre in Alabama, unveiled the idea on NASA’s website. Traveling at a such speed means everything behind the spacecraft would appear black, and time would appear to stop altogether, with clocks slowing down to a crawl and planets seemingly ceasing to spin. The helical engine gets around this using hi-tech particle accelerators like those found in Europe’s Large Hadron Collider. Tiny particles are fired at high speed using electromagnets, recycled back around the engine and fired again. The engine could theoretically reach speeds of around 297 million metres per second. However it’s not clear if this will work.
The design is capable of producing a thrust up to 99 per cent the speed of light without breaking Einstein’s theory of relativity, according to Dr Burns, but it does breach Newton’s law of motion. Dr Burns said the engine would have to be 198 metres long and 12 metres wide to work.