British physicist Paul Dirac first predicted the idea of antimatter. Dirac developed an equation to describe the motion of electrons in magnetic and electric fields. Other equations had been formulated but Dirac’s was different. His equation also took into account the effects of Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity. Dirac’s equation was successful in describing the motion of electrons, but it also showed that an electron had the possibility of having an anti-particle. In 1932, Carl Anderson who experimentally observed this particle and named it a positron proved Dirac’s prediction true.
As far as scientists have determined, things are made out of molecules, molecules are made out of atoms, and atoms are made out of quarks. According to theory, every atom has three quarks, which are all positive. Antimatter is supposed to have two positive and one negative quark. This negative quark makes it impossible to have matter and antimatter touching each other. When they do come into contact, they annihilate each other and the result is an explosion of pure energy. Magnetic antimatter and magnetic sand could be used to propel a spacecraft. As they come into contact inside a highly reinforced chamber, the resulting explosion would rush into space and propel the ship forward.
The trip to Mars with an antimatter annihilation chamber could take as little as twenty-four hours. The problem is that antimatter costs about 10,000,000 per ounce or for every 3.125 minutes of thrust. The only way around this problem is to either construct large particle accelerators specifically designed to harvest antimatter, or to find a large deposit of antimatter within our solar system. More antimatter is currently being created artificially than all the years of the past put together.
“The power we use now to make antimatter is close to a billion times more than we can produce [with antimatter],” said Dave McGinnis, an antiproton expert and department head of the Antiproton Source at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab). Fermilab is one of the world’s leading creators of antimatter that is being used for scientific study. The reason there is no antimatter rocket being assembled is that it costs too much money.
Technanogy Antimatter Production LLC, with former Fermilab accelerator physicist Gerry Jackson as the president of the company, is hoping to change the cost of antimatter. Jackson says that the new techniques that he and his fellow scientists are using could eventually lead to much more efficient techniques of creating antimatter that would also create a much lower price tag. In the future, they believe that they will be able to create one thousand times more antimatter than is currently manufactured at Fermilab.
The idea is that some day with antimatter in the tank, a family would be able to take their rocket for a spin to the nearest M-class planet with relative ease. Miniaturized antimatter fuel could be made up of nothing bigger than a thumb-sized canister with a source of energy smaller than an aspirin with no need of replenishment for hundreds of light-years.
TABLES AND FIGURES
MONDARDINI, ROSY 2000 “The History of Antimatter” CERN (retrieved May 04, 2003 http://livefromcern.web.cern.ch/livefromcern/antimatter/about.html )
REIMUND, KEVIN 2003, January 15 “Propulsion on a Manned Martian Expedition” Red Colony (retrieved March 3, 2003 http://www.redcolony.com/articles/030115.html )
SCHULTZ, JAMES 2001, January 11 “Antimatter Makers Chase Ultimate Energy Source” Space.com (retrieved May 1, 2003 http://www.space.com/news/antimetter_fuel_0010111.html )