How NASA Is Making ‘Star Trek’ Tech a Reality

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How NASA Is Making ‘Star Trek’ Tech a Reality

Another Mission Into Space…


The Dawn spacecraft used futuristic ion engines to fly between the asteroid Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres. Ion drives are one of many “Star Trek” technologies NASA is pursuing. Credit: NASA

“Star Trek” technologies are starting to become a reality in our everyday lives; just ask anyone who owns a cellphone or tries a virtual reality headset. But how real are these “Star Trek” technologies in space today, 50 years after the iconic science fiction series’ TV debut? While the tech for warp drives and transporters remains elusive, NASA is using some technology in space that would be at home on the starship Enterprise.

The DAWN dwarf spacecraft using futuristic ion engine fly between asteroid Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres.  The ion thruster is a form of electric propulsion, used for spacecraft propulsion. It creates thrust by accelerating ions with electricity. Ion thrusters are categorized by how they accelerate the ions, using either electrostatic or electromagnetic force.Electrostatic thrusters use the Coulomb force and accelerate the ions in the direction of the electric field. Electromagnetic thrusters use the Lorentz force. In either case, when an ion passes through an electrostatic grid engine, the potential difference of the electric field converts to the ion’s kinetic energy. Courtesy of


NASA’s 2.3 kW NSTAR ion thruster for the Deep Space 1 spacecraft during a hot fire test at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory

One key way NASA is emulating “Star Trek” is by finding ways for humans to spend years in space without requiring constant resupply missions from Earth, said Jason Crusan, NASA’s director for advanced exploration systems. This means using the International Space Station as a test bed for technology that can extend an astronaut’s stay in space and thus could be used one day on the long journey to Mars.

Space station astronauts already drink water mostly recovered from urine, but NASA wants to push its recovery rate (now in the 80 percent range) even further, Crusan said. [13 Things “Star Trek” Gets Right (and Wrong) About Space Tech]

Courtesy of Elizabeth Howell, Contributor.

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