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Ion Engine Propels Probe to Moon

michael posted about 11 years ago | from the ludicrous-speed dept.

Space 330

lenin writes "The BBC is reporting that Europe's first moon mission, SMART-1, appears to be a success thus far. It also talks about the low-cost technology being used and the charged xenon (ion) propulsion system. Can TIE-fighters be far off?"

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Ooh, IONs (0, Interesting)

B3ryllium (571199) | about 11 years ago | (#7078884)

Ion propulsion ... that's fun. Has anyone heard of other probes being constructed that use other fun propulsion technologies?

(Frankly, the physics of using rockets in space has never made sense to me - how do they go anywhere? - but it seems to work, so that's fine.)

Re:Ooh, IONs (2, Informative)

dnoyeb (547705) | about 11 years ago | (#7078941)

For ever action their is an equal and opposite reaction.

Rockets move exactly in the same way an Ion propulsion engine would move. By forcing mass out the rear. Unlike jet or propeller, a rocket ejects its fuel as a means to propel itself.

Re:Ooh, IONs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7078985)

HBP (human bean propulsion) works the same way *parapppapappapaparp*


Re:Ooh, IONs (3, Funny)

FrostedWheat (172733) | about 11 years ago | (#7079139)

For ever action their is an equal and opposite reaction

I'm sorry, but that dosen't explain the curry from my local Chinese restaurant. The reaction is way bigger than the action. Perhaps they should have powered SMART-1 using that.

Re:Ooh, IONs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7078944)

Frankly, the physics of using rockets in space has never made sense to me - how do they go anywhere? - but it seems to work, so that's fine.

Not too bright, are you? The physics is simple. Throw stuff opposite to the direction you want to go. To every action there is an opposite reaction.

Everything else is details. A lot of details :)

Re:Ooh, IONs (4, Informative)

WTFmonkey (652603) | about 11 years ago | (#7079059)

Kind of an asshole, aren't you?

I think what confuses some people is that we're used to pushing against something to go somewhere. People have a misguided idea that it's the exhaust pushing against the ground that makes a rocket go, but it's actually the rocket pushing against its exhaust that makes it go. Basically, you mix two things together in a chamber, and under high pessure you shoot ("throw" in the parent's words) the resulting gases out the back end, and away you go. There's no need to interact with the atmosphere which is why rockets work in space and propellers don't.

Re:Ooh, IONs (1)

DarkOx (621550) | about 11 years ago | (#7078958)

For every action there is and equal and oposit reaction.

Re:Ooh, IONs (5, Funny)

puetzc (131221) | about 11 years ago | (#7078963)

Of course you don't understand - after all, this time it really IS rocket science.

Re:Ooh, IONs (4, Informative)

quasi_steller (539538) | about 11 years ago | (#7078993)

(Frankly, the physics of using rockets in space has never made sense to me - how do they go anywhere? - but it seems to work, so that's fine.)

Rockets use the same priciple that ion propulsion uses, the law of action and reaction (one of Newton's Laws, can't remember which one off the top of my head). Basically matter is accellerated out the back of the engine (by chemical means in the chemical rocket engine, and by using electro-magnetic forces in the ion propulsion engine). This accelleration causes causes a force to be placed on the engine that is equal to, but oppisite in direction, to the force accellerating the matter.

To answer your first question, Deep Space 1 [] used ion propulsion.

Re:Ooh, IONs (3, Funny)

BTO (604614) | about 11 years ago | (#7078998)

Frankly, the physics of using rockets in space has never made sense to me - how do they go anywhere?

It's pretty simple, really. In the atmosphere, rockets work by pushing against the air, as you might expect. However, when the rocket leaves the atmosphere and enters a vacuum, or what we physicists call an "inertial frame," then your thrust is pushing against this inertial frame, which is kind of like what physicists used to call the "Aether." Aether has gotten a bad name, since Einstein proved that electromagnetic waves don't need to travel in the aether, but this has led to the misconception that aether doesn't even exist. Mach's principle shows that Aether is real, since it is what we need to push against to rotate and accelerate in space.

Re:Ooh, IONs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7079070)

WTF are you smoking!?

Re:Ooh, IONs (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7079080)

ok, this is finally retarded enough. Rockets do not push against the air, they do not push against the "aether." Hell, they don't even push against the launching pad when they are on the ground.

Rocket exhaust (the flames, etc.) provide a force, yes, but THEY PUSH AGAINST THE ROCKET.

If you are standing on ice (wearing skates) and you throw a bowling ball away from you, you will slide in the opposite direction. The bowling ball doesn't need to hit anything for you to move.

Re:Ooh, IONs (1)

WTFmonkey (652603) | about 11 years ago | (#7079110)

Look at the dude's posting history. Read his comment and laugh. It's funny.

Re:Ooh, IONs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7079121)

One of the articles about the aerospike engines included a nice diagram that showed how the force vectors of the expanding gas and the shape of the nozzle combine to create a net force that pushes the rocket.

Re:Ooh, IONs (1)

rco3 (198978) | about 11 years ago | (#7079117)

Oh, please. Everybody knows that rockets have to have air to push against, but aether? Please. Quit trying to fool the above poster with your farcical stories about aether.

Any respectable scientist knows that space travel is impossible anyway, that NASA never put any men on the moon, and that any satellite in orbit that you might THINK you see is really swamp gas, reflected off of Venus...

And as for my sibling posters in this subthread, you might wanna turn up the sensayumor knob in yer forebrain.

Re:Ooh, IONs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7079159)

what we physicists call an "inertial frame"

HAHAHA I don't believe you've been within 1000 feet of a physics classroom. An "inertial frame" or any type of frame of reference has nothing to do with air pressure. It's mindboggling how someone can get such a simple concept so screwed up.

To push and rotate in vacuum, you need to eject material under conservation of momentum. There is no aether and there is nothing to push against in a vacuum except what you bring with.

Re:Ooh, IONs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7079309)

Sucker. You've been trolled. What's mindboggling is how easily you were taken in.

Re:Ooh, IONs (2, Funny)

kfg (145172) | about 11 years ago | (#7079226)

Hey guys, this stuff isn't just dumbass. A considerable amount of thought and understanding had to go into making it look that retarded.

In short, it's a troll. A real troll at that, not the pseudo trolls we usually see around here.

Not exactly the best troll I've ever seen, but in a way it's nice to see a Slashdoter make the effort to at least try to uphold the old traditions.


Re:Ooh, IONs (2, Informative)

Durandal64 (658649) | about 11 years ago | (#7079031)

If you are wondering how rocket propulsion can work if Newton's laws dictate that every force generates an equal and opposite force, you're not distinguishing between force and acceleration. If you mass roughly 50 kg, and I hit you with a 500 kg Acme weight with a force of 1 000 N, you'll accelerate at 20 m/s^2, but the Acme weight will only accelerate at 2 m/s^2. Equal force != equal acceleration.

Re:Ooh, IONs (1)

TechnoGrl (322690) | about 11 years ago | (#7079302)

Has anyone heard of other probes being constructed that use other fun propulsion technologies?

Anyone care for a Reactionless Thruster [] ?

Re:Ooh, IONs (1)

kfg (145172) | about 11 years ago | (#7079307)

To perhaps give you an intuitive idea of what all this action/reaction stuff
people are talking about is imagine firing a gun.

It "kicks".

The expanding gasses push the bullet out one end, sure, but they also push the
whole gun back against your shoulder. If your shoulder weren't there . . .

Another example would be trying to hold onto a fire hose. If you've never had the opportunity just rent Roxanne. Then you can go down to your local Kaybee (or other) toy store and buy a cheap little plastic thing that puts this to actual
use in a rocket. Or go here if you're a do it yourself kind of guy: ht m


Re:Ooh, IONs (1)

jd142 (129673) | about 11 years ago | (#7079316)

The article gives examples of other ion powered craft.

Who cares? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7078889)

I nailed it! FP!

Re:Who cares? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7078914)


please go back to screwing things.

SORRY (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7078934)

shove it up your ass

Admirable attempt. (-1)

Fecal Troll Matter (445929) | about 11 years ago | (#7079106)

Sadly, you've inevitably failed. Do not let a minor set-back such as this prohibit you from reaching your ultimate goal.

FP 4 adi (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7078890)

Welcome to our new ion overlords

Dupe ! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7078894)

Here's the original [] .

Tie fighters (4, Funny)

panurge (573432) | about 11 years ago | (#7078906)

If Tie fighters had the acceleration of the Smart-1, Lucas Skywalker would have had nothing to fear. There's obviously some sort of competition on for the slowest flight to the Moon. The acceleration is even lower than that of the Smart car [] .

Yes, I do know why ion engines are a good idea. Just leave Star Wars out of this.

Re:Tie fighters (0)

Christoff84 (707146) | about 11 years ago | (#7078954)

Its not the TIE fighter you need to be scared of, its the guy running towards you with a long beam of light screaming MAY THE FORCE BE WITH ME!

Re:Tie fighters (1)

geggibus (316979) | about 11 years ago | (#7079040)

0.2mm/s^2 ....

Re:Tie fighters (0)

johoho (192418) | about 11 years ago | (#7079046)

see this link [] why the auther made the analogy to star wars.


Re:Tie fighters (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7079129)

TIE means Twin Ion Engine....

your sig (1)

Hillman (137883) | about 11 years ago | (#7079168)

Dans cette place interdite. not interdit.

Karma Whore for the Non-Star Wars Obsessed (0, Informative)

dupper (470576) | about 11 years ago | (#7078908)


overlords (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7078918)

I for one, will welcome our new ION overlords.

Now we are done with the trolling, continue with interesting comments dear slashdotters.

Fusial Thrust (1)

AllenChristopher (679129) | about 11 years ago | (#7078920)

Before we can build X-Wings, we have to figure out what the hell "Fusial Thrust" means.

Re:Fusial Thrust (1)

marine_recon (652565) | about 11 years ago | (#7079007)

thats the easy part. the hard part is finding someone who knows how to build a hyperdrive

Sigh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7078924)

Soon we will really WILL have a bunch of brits on the 'DeathStar' going room to room, inquiring what the hell is going on.


Its about time. (1, Insightful)

andcarne (657052) | about 11 years ago | (#7078928)

Ion propulsion technology has been around for quite some time, but has not been used for much else then the deep space probes. Its nice to see it getting some more use. Its also good that other countries are getting more involved with space. Its been far too limited with really only one country going up, since Russia does few launches anymore. I just hope the space program starts to pick up finally after the shuttle tragedy.

Re:Its about time. (5, Insightful)

dex22 (239643) | about 11 years ago | (#7078957)

Russia does far more launches than the US.
Russia does them much more safely. In manned launches, they have something like a 99.9% success rate (one launch mishap in over 1000 launches). The US has had two mishaps in about 115 launches.

Re:Its about time. (0, Troll)

IAR80 (598046) | about 11 years ago | (#7079009)

If you think the US is bad then look at the european launchers.

Re:Its about time. (3, Insightful)

troc (3606) | about 11 years ago | (#7079197)

Yeah, That dammed Ariane 4 rocket was only the most successful, accurate, reliable launcher ever.

Nasty horrid Europeans.

Sure Ariane 5 has had some teething troubles but don't mock the Europeans, they are the ones who made space commercial. Ariane is much more reliable than the Delta or Atlas Centaur launchers the US uses and whilst the shuttle is quite reliable, it's a ridiculously expensive way to put a commercial satellite in space.

Re:Its about time. (4, Interesting)

jdhutchins (559010) | about 11 years ago | (#7079214)

You're russian history is incorrect. They have had several mishaps. The ones that I can think of off the top of my head are Soyuz 1 and Soyuz 11. They have probably had somewhere between 150-200 manned launches. We'll hav change your definition of "launch mishap" to "the rocket went up but the people didn't come down alive".
We have had two accidents in our space program (3 if you count Apollo I, but in the above definition, it doesn't count)
The Russians do more launches than we do. In the past, they've done more manned launches than we did. Since the past 5 years, I'd say that we've probably done about the same number of manned launches.

Re:Its about time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7079364)

You are russian history is incorrect?

Re:Its about time. (1)

IAR80 (598046) | about 11 years ago | (#7078969)

Ion drives were also user in the European Artemis spacecraft which is geostationary. Too bad the Arian e launcher had a problem reducing a lot the "life expectancy" of the satelite who had to use most of its fuel to reach the geostationary slot. 2001-056.shtml

TIE (5, Funny)

CGP314 (672613) | about 11 years ago | (#7078938)

It also talks about the low-cost technology being used and the charged xenon (ion) propulsion system. Can TIE-fighters be far off?

Yup, that's how technology goes, straight from moon probe to TIE fighters. No intermediate steps necessary. No life support, no radiation shielding, necessary. I can't wait to buy my A-Wing.

Re:TIE (1)

Bobulusman (467474) | about 11 years ago | (#7079056)

Not to be an over-obsessed SW geek, but the TIE fighter didn't have a life support system. That's why the pilots needed those air masks, while the X-wing pilots got the open-air helmets.

Re:TIE (1)

FauxPasIII (75900) | about 11 years ago | (#7079057)

Not to mention particle weapons. Or force fields and faster-than-light travel. (for your A-Wing, yes, I know TIE fighters are unshielded and sublight)

Re:TIE (4, Funny)

gl4ss (559668) | about 11 years ago | (#7079098)

dude, tie fighters don't have life support(the pilot needs a full space suit)! that's why they're so cheap at your local imperial clearing sales.

geez, the people on slashdot these days!

Obligatory. . . (4, Funny)

Limburgher (523006) | about 11 years ago | (#7078942)

"But Ion engines can never acheive fast accelleration"

(sigh) Then the Emperor has already won.

Ion drive is cool, but... (2, Interesting)

JeffMagnus (133746) | about 11 years ago | (#7078943)

Sure the Ion drive is a really neat addition, but it's soooo slooooow. It's going to take them 15 MONTHS to get there! And the payload isn't really greater at all. It takes longer to get any large loads going. The US space program got people to the moon and back in what...2 weeks? It may be slightly more economical, but it just doesn't seem practical.
Hopefully they can perfect the ion drive, however through this to increase the speed and payload capacity. Then we might have something really cool... (until the anti-matter reactor comes online...)

Re:Ion drive is cool, but... (3, Insightful)

lurker412 (706164) | about 11 years ago | (#7079006)

What's the hurry? The moon will keep. Think science, not Star Wars.

Re:Ion drive is cool, but... (1)

andcarne (657052) | about 11 years ago | (#7079099)

There really is no way to speed it up, that is economical. This technology is mainly for use in long distances, since it would take less time to go really far. This is just a test bed for it. The moon will still be there in 15 months.

Re:Ion drive is cool, but... (4, Funny)

jd142 (129673) | about 11 years ago | (#7079350)

The moon will still be there in 15 months.

That's what you think. Ooops, I've said too much already.


Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7079127)

this post was stolen from the last slashdot posting about this ion drive like a week or so ago!!

Re:Ion drive is cool, but... (4, Informative)

adeyadey (678765) | about 11 years ago | (#7079254)

This is really a test bed for the ion-drive technology - although even on this mission, its effective to do it this way, once in lunar orbit the drive can make slow adjustments to cover the whole surface, without having to carry huge amounts of propellant. Over LONG periods of operation, the ion drive is something like 10 times more effective in terms of fuel carried vs thrust given compared to chemical rockets - and that figure is set to improve as research progresses. SMART-1 is an important step in that research. The Ariane-5 launch rocket is a fraction of the size/cost of the Apollo/Saturn-5's..

In the future missions you will see these sorts of drives giving much faster flight times to Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn.. - although for the outer system you may need nuclear instead of solar power.

Yes both this and parent are dupes from previous thread..

Re:Ion drive is cool, but... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7079280)

That's how ion drives are so economical. While most rockets burn a huge amount of fuel quickly then coast, an ion drive continues to "burn" (granted the fuel isn't combustible, the xenon ions are accelerated with electric plates, etc) for years upon end. Hence after a few weeks the ion driven probe would achieve rediculous speeds. Consider the recently ended Deep Space One simulation at JPL. They had the drive running for a few years straight, if I remember correctly as I'm too lazy to double check. Even though these drives have sub newton thrusts, after that long the probes would be well past speeds unattainable by conventional rockets.

ion engine limitations (1)

Sneftel (15416) | about 11 years ago | (#7078945)

As interesting as ion engines sound, it seems like they might be rather limited in use. After all, with such low acceleration, procedures such as leaving the orbit of a planet or moon might be impossible, or at least take decades. Anyone with more specific knowledge than the Beeb wanna weigh in?

Re:ion engine limitations (3, Informative)

Shihar (153932) | about 11 years ago | (#7079062)

While the Ion engine is very slow, it actually turns out to be faster then most engines in the long run. For a normal engine they generally burn real quickly then the object just coasts to wherever it is going. With an ion engine they can burn for very long periods of time. Over long distances it is better to burn for a long time with a slow acceleration then it is to burn quickly.

Even better, if you are doing something like flying to Mars, an ion engine combined with a normal engine has a lot of potential. Just strap a big old disposable solid fuel engine onto your spacecraft and let it burn dry. This will get you well on your way to your destination. Dump the solid fuel engine and continue to burn with the ion engine. You will get to where you are going fairly quickly.

Re:ion engine limitations (2, Interesting)

Clueless Moron (548336) | about 11 years ago | (#7079146)

Leaving orbit is not a problem; it just takes a lot longer. Remember, there is no friction in space.

The point of ion drive is that it has waaaay higher efficiency than chemical rockets. Momentum is mass times velocity, so by pumping up the velocity you can correspondingly reduce the mass. That's what Ion drive does. It spits out atoms at ridiculous speeds.

Consider a chemical rocket. It very quickly gets you up to speed, but after that you just coast.

Now consider a drive that has, say, only 1/100th as much acceleration, but can run 10000 times longer. It'll take a long time to use up that fuel, but when you're done you will be going 100 times faster than the chemical rocket.

Obviously Ion drive is only useful once you're already in orbit, but if time is not an issue it's hard to beat.

Re:ion engine limitations (0)

TrippTDF (513419) | about 11 years ago | (#7079236)

Keep in mind, this is the first ion engine in use. I'm sure that in time we can refine the technology, possibly combine it with rockets even, and you could have yourself a nice, efficient yet effective engine.

I know next to nothing about this technology, but perhaps ion engines make more sense as maneuvering thrusters or some sort of back up system in case the main engines have a failure. Perhaps deep space probes will carry a secondary ion engine with their rockets incase something goes wrong...

I'm sure this is a first step. I'm planing on waiting for a TIE Interceptor before I make a purchase, though.

Unwarranted Extrapolation (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7078949)

Can TIE-fighters be far off?

Sorry to disappoint you, but yes.

Damn space cadet!

elevator (5, Funny)

spectrokid (660550) | about 11 years ago | (#7078950)

If we combine this with the space elevator, we can send shit to the moon on 6 AA batteries!!!

Re:elevator (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7079088)

Oh shit, that was funny. WIsh I had mod points today. It's not often something on /. makes me laugh out loud.

Re:elevator (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7079177)

No, all we need to do is combine the space elevator with some monkeys.

Not for Tie Fighters (1)

Frequency Domain (601421) | about 11 years ago | (#7078960)

Ion propulsion systems wouldn't be any good for fighter craft. They use very low accelerations, integrated over large periods of time. This makes them a good candidate for interplanetary flight, where you have weeks and months to build up large velocities with the small acceleration, but really crappy for combat where you want to be able to accelerate quickly. Well, maybe you don't, but I do.

Link (0)

Sir Haxalot (693401) | about 11 years ago | (#7078966)

The same story at Spaceref [] .

ionize xenon atoms? (1)

ddd2k (585046) | about 11 years ago | (#7078990)

anyone else wondering where such a small system is getting the energy needed to ionize a large amount of xenon atoms?

Re:ionize xenon atoms? (2, Informative)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | about 11 years ago | (#7079052)

Actually, no big mystery, it has enormous solar panels 10s of meters long.

Re:ionize xenon atoms? (2, Insightful)

gaijin_ (134592) | about 11 years ago | (#7079071)

The concept relies on using power from the solar cells to make the force. This is opposed to carrying fuel.

Using this system only a very small amount of mass is needed to accelerate the craft to quite high velocities, because the energy isn't lifted from the gound but produced in orbit.

On a normal probe the energy for popultion would reside in the fuel carried in tanks, here it resides in the rather large fusion reactor at the center of the solar system.

Re:ionize xenon atoms? (1)

andcarne (657052) | about 11 years ago | (#7079113)

It still does carry fuel, the xenon gas. It just uses very little to go any distance.

Re:ionize xenon atoms? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7079120)

From the kick-ass large solar panels. Glad that you asked.

Yes, Alice, that's right... (2, Funny)

Tumbleweed (3706) | about 11 years ago | (#7079002)


Friction (3, Insightful)

RetroGeek (206522) | about 11 years ago | (#7079021)

Can TIE-fighters be far off?

There will be no TIE fighters until we have friction in space. To be able to turn like an airplane in an atmosphere you need something to react against.

Re:Friction (1) (102718) | about 11 years ago | (#7079220)


You just need to have enough mass you can eject in some direction. That is called propulsion. Just collect enough light, and you will be doing well.

Re:Friction (1)

gregfortune (313889) | about 11 years ago | (#7079241)

Not at all, you just need to generate massive thrust in arbitrary directions. The easy way to do this is generate thrust out the back and then have a thruster at the front-top, front-bottom, front-left, and front-right that allow the vehicle to spin on its center.

You haven't read Hitchiker's (2, Funny)

SharpFang (651121) | about 11 years ago | (#7079281) to the galaxy. Obviously this maneuver is very unnatural for all space vehicles, but it looks so cool rich people will surely want to have stuff that does that implemented in their spaceships. Just for showoff, no matter how inefficient and ridiculous that would seem :)


Yo Grark (465041) | about 11 years ago | (#7079035)

Although, Ion's second time around are just as fun!

Yo Grark
Canadian Bred with American Buttering...American Buttering....American Buttering...

me? (-1, Offtopic)

Ummagumma (137757) | about 11 years ago | (#7079042)

I for one, welcome our new Dark Sith overlords.


We Like The Moon... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7079066)

We like the moon
Coz it is close to us
We like the moon
But not as much as a spoon
Cos that's more use for eating soup
And a fork isn't very useful for that
Unless it has got many vegetables
And then you might be better off with a chopstick

Unlike the moon
It is up in the sky
It's up there very high
But not as high as maybe
Dirigibles or zeppelins or light bulbs
And maybe clouds
And puffins also I think maybe they go quite high too
Maybe not as high as the moon
Coz the moon is very high

We like the moon
The moon is very useful everyone
Everybody like the moon
Because it light up the sky at night
And it lovely
And it makes the tide go
And we like it

But not as much as cheese
We really like cheese we like zeppelins
We really like them and we like kelp and we like moose
and we like deer and we like marmots
and we like all the fluffy animals
We really like the moon

Finally!! (1)

WTFmonkey (652603) | about 11 years ago | (#7079126)

A chance to use this link []

Build your own ion drive (2, Interesting)

be-fan (61476) | about 11 years ago | (#7079072)

Check out this page [] for some nifty things you can build that may work on ion-propulsion. I thought it was a hoax at first, but my friend convinced me to build it in high-school, and the thing really did work. Of course, the efficiency was terrible. We were using an old monitor as a 20,000 volt power source, so power dissipation was probably pretty high. That was enough to lift the 2 gram device and 1 gram of payload.

Re:Build your own ion drive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7079207)

Lifters have been shown NOT to work in a vacuum... therefore these would not work for space. Even still, to lift off the ground requires more than 9.8m/s^2 which is a pretty respectable amount of thrust... which hopefully would indicate that ion propulsion isn't limited to 14 month+ missions.

Dupe or extreme interest (1)

sharkey (16670) | about 11 years ago | (#7079082)

Are we going to get daily news on this project? []

Could such engines... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7079107)

...probe Uranus?


Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7079152)

Lameness filter encountered. Post aborted! Reason: Your comment looks too much like ascii art.

Ion Propulsion? (1)

Ceadda (625501) | about 11 years ago | (#7079167)

This is just a cool way of saying they're driving the probe to the moon in the new saturn car. :)

I'm not really interested... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7079180)

...until they say "First mare in space".

Finally... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7079199)

...we can expose the American moon landing SCAM! ;-)

TIE fighters? (1)

RyLaN (608672) | about 11 years ago | (#7079208)

so we get the lasers that make noise and move like they're nerf gun darts too?

Other science fiction reference... (4, Interesting)

dpilot (134227) | about 11 years ago | (#7079217)

This one is more reputable, I believe credited to Arthur C. Clarke.

It was a short story about an Earth-to-Moon (orbit-to-orbit) space race, in the spirit of the Kremer prize. The spacecraft were propelled by ion engines, which were energized by Whimshurst-type machines, which were powered by ...


The racers pedaled their way to the moon, the pedals effectively powering the ion engines that drove them. The race took several days, with the right stuff added in for absurd athletics, rest breaks, minimal life-support, race security, etc.

No doubt someone here will do the math that I never bothered trying to do. One of these days, maybe I will.

This is something I will be keeping my Ion.. (2, Insightful)

adeyadey (678765) | about 11 years ago | (#7079221)

Sorry for that pun, but..

One point worth making - chemical rockets are getting close to the limits of thier possible efficiency. In contrast Ion engines are in their infancy. The main theoretic limit is that particles cannot be expelled faster than light. You could see very big leaps in engine power in the future..

i bet. (-1, Flamebait)

sekzscripting (687192) | about 11 years ago | (#7079229)

I bet you that 99% of the people that post on Slashdot are Star Wars nuts. Goofy mother fuckers.

Slowwww (0, Flamebait)

ewithrow (409712) | about 11 years ago | (#7079230)

Since it's taking 15 months to get there, that means that the thing is traveling at an average speed of 22 MPH.

They should have just launched my Buick Century to the moon and it would have gone faster...

Ion Propulsion (4, Informative)

Listen Up (107011) | about 11 years ago | (#7079266)

I spent a lot of time studying this technology while I was working towards my Bachelor's Degree. Okay, let's get some facts straight, for those of you without a degree in Mathematics or Physics:

1) Ion Propulsion is NOT new technology. The Russians and German's have been experimenting with Ion Propulsion since the early 1950's. NASA is actually a late comer to the game, although the first with a completed ion propulsion engine.

2) Ion Propulsion do not work in an environment with an atmosphere. An ion engine does not have enough force to lift a sheet of paper more than a few inches.

3) An Ion Engine is very simple in design. For a simple explanation, an inert gas is ionized and injected into a chamber with an opening on one end. The opening has a magnetized torid ring around it. Using the right hand rule (make a fist, stick your thumb out like you are hitchhiking...your thumb is the direction of the electric current, your fingers are curled in the direction of magnetic field flow) you create an electrical flow around the metal torid ring. The resulting magnetic field 'pulls' the ions through the ring, resulting in propulsion.

4) The reason for slow inital acceleration is because the force of the ions passing through the ring is very small, but the velocity of the ions is very high. So, since there is no friction or other losses in space, after a period of time the velocity of the ions leaving the ring increases the velocity of the engine. After a matter of days the engine can be travelling at 10-30,000MPH.

For more information and history on Ion Propulsion engines you can go to the following websites: ap r99_2.htm ar /

Re:Ion Propulsion (1)

Sparr0 (451780) | about 11 years ago | (#7079306)

ion propulsion works just fine in an atmosphere, unless im misunderstanding the working of the popular 'Ionic Breeze' air filters.

The dark spots, (1)

AchmedHabib (696882) | about 11 years ago | (#7079331)

We all know what hides in the dark spots that they wish to explore and that no picture of what is lurking in the darkness ever will make it back to earth.
So all we can do is wait for the message that they have lost contact with the spacecraft..
..I have not watched too many movies...

Deep Space 1 (0, Redundant)

minus_273 (174041) | about 11 years ago | (#7079340)

I think NASA did this already with DS1 waay back in 1997 or 98

Tuesday is the important day (1)

ctid (449118) | about 11 years ago | (#7079358)

Tuesday is when the ion drive gets switched on for the first time.
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