Mixing nuclear power with rockets might sound like a recipe for disaster, but it could actually help send people to Mars faster!
There are some practical issues that prevent such large-scale missions and one of the most important elements when it comes to travelling to Mars is the time it takes – I mean, a return trip for astronauts takes about three years.
Seattle company Ultra Safe Nuclear Technologies (USNC-Tech) has now come forward with a solution – nuclear-powered rockets. Basically, through nuclear thermal propulsion, astronauts would be able to be transported to Mars in just three months.
This is even shorter than the quickest time that has been estimated for astronauts, which is nine months – but this idea has been around since the 1940s, so it surely won’t come easy…
The biggest issue with this is possible radiation, but USNC-Tech has designed the rocket to protect its passenger with liquid propellants designed to stop radiation from affecting astronauts.
The ship would also launch in space to protect people from radiation, so should there be an accident, the nuclear energy would not land on a planet for thousands of years, making the materials safe by the time they land.
USNC-Tech has also developed a fuel that can operate in temperatures up to 2,700 degrees Kelvin, which means it can withstand the temperatures of nuclear reactions.
The chief engineer of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, Jeff Sheehy, has explained that with space travel, ‘The longer you’re out there, the more time there is for stuff to go wrong.’ Since this nuclear-propelled system would reduce this time, journeys would be less risky.
This would also make plans to live on Mars more plausible too and obviously, both of these notions are still in their conceptual stages, and many tests would need to be done.