Nasa to test nuclear rockets that could fly astronauts to Mars in record time
Project, in concert with US government agency Darpa, aims to develop pioneering propulsion system for space travel
Richard Luscombe in Miami @richlusc
Tue 24 Jan 2023 18.29 GMT
Nasa has unveiled plans to test nuclear-powered rockets that would fly astronauts to Mars in ultra-fast time.
The agency has partnered with the US government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) to demonstrate a nuclear thermal rocket engine in space as soon as 2027, it announced on Tuesday.
The project is intended to develop a pioneering propulsion system for space travel far different from the chemical systems prevalent since the modern era of rocketry dawned almost a century ago.
“Using a nuclear thermal rocket allows for faster transit time, reducing risk for astronauts,” Nasa said in a press release.
“Reducing transit time is a key component for human missions to Mars, as longer trips require more supplies and more robust systems.”
An additional benefit would be increased science payload capacity, and higher power for instrumentation and communication, according to the agency.
Nasa, which successfully tested its new-era Artemis spacecraft last year as a springboard back to the moon and on to Mars, has hopes of landing humans on the red planet some time in the 2030s as part of its Moon to Mars program.
Using current technology, Nasa says, the 300m-mile journey to Mars would take about seven months. Engineers do not yet know how much time could be shaved off using nuclear technology, but Bill Nelson, the Nasa administrator, said it would allow spacecraft, and humans, to travel in deep space at record speed.
“With the help of this new technology, astronauts could journey to and from deep space faster than ever - a major capability to prepare for crewed missions to Mars,” Nelson said.
Verder lezen: https://www.theguardian.c...-mars-trip-nuclear-rocket