As part of NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, the US space agency is funding a program to develop a nuclear-powered rocket.
If this project was successful, it would allow the distance between Earth and Mars to be covered in a month and a half, potentially revolutionizing space exploration!
Journey to Mars
One of the difficulties in getting to Mars is the length of the journey. It can take a few months at best, and thus more than a year for a round trip. However, the solution to speeding things up could perhaps be nuclear power.
This is the goal of one of the concepts selected for initial development by the American space agency (NASA) as part of its innovation program dedicated to advancing its space missions. While it may not ultimately stick, the project is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular of this year’s crop.
With conventional chemical propulsion, it would take (at best) about nine months to send a crew to Mars. To go much faster, the concept in question combines two nuclear propulsion technologies.
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The first is a thermal propulsion mode, based on gas heated from nuclear fission until it becomes ionized gas. The second is electric. Here, an electromagnetic field accelerates the thrust considerably. So the two forces combined could increase the speed of any spacecraft.
Theoretically, this bimodal propulsion, if perfected, could make it possible to reach the Red Planet in just 45 days, which was previously unthinkable.
According to Professor Ryan Gosse of the University of Florida, responsible for this concept, this bimodal solution could enable the rapid transfer of any manned mission and therefore revolutionize space exploration, on Mars and beyond.