Breaking the sound barrier makes a lot of noise, but if supersonic planes can quiet down, the future of air travel could get a lot faster. On Monday NASA announced it's giving Lockheed Martin $20 million to begin designing an experimental plane that uses “boom reduction” technology to muffle the noise from the sound barrier breaking. Instead of a boom, the plane will produce more of a “whump,” or what NASA calls a “supersonic heartbeat.” Since the heyday of the Concorde, several other supersonic passenger jet projects have tried and failed to get off the ground, but NASA is hoping to have a plane in the air by 2020.
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