The US space agency NASA wants to send a spacecraft with a nuclear rocket engine to Mars. To that end, on Tuesday, NASA announced a collaboration with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The goal is to show a thermonuclear rocket engine in space. This should enable NASA’s manned mission to Mars in the future.
Nuclear thermal propulsion technology will be developed and demonstrated by 2027. “This new technology could allow astronauts to travel into space faster than ever before,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. This is important for Mars mission preparation.
This new technology could allow astronauts to travel into space faster than ever before.
Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator
Using a thermonuclear missile is said to allow for a faster transit time and reduce risks to astronauts. “Reducing transit time is a key component of manned missions to Mars, as longer journeys require more supplies and more powerful systems,” NASA said. Faster and more efficient transportation technology should help NASA achieve its goals for the Moon and Mars.
Other benefits of space travel include increased science payload capacity and higher instrument and communications performance, according to NASA.
In a thermonuclear rocket engine, a fission reactor is used to generate extremely high temperatures. The thruster transfers the heat generated by the reactor into a liquid propellant, which is expanded and exhausted through a nozzle to propel the spacecraft. Nuclear thermonuclear missiles can be three or more times more efficient than conventional chemical propulsion, according to NASA.
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