Astronauts going to Mars in the future can have a fairly easy and fast journey through the use of nuclear-powered rockets, the report says. The rockets could speed up the Mars journey so drastically that astronauts will arrive on the red planet three months after they leave Earth. The technology is however not approved yet, experts said.
NASA plans to fly astronauts to Mars in 2035 but issues such as the duration of the trip are putting a hold on the plan. If a manned crew takes too long to arrive at the planet, the astronauts’ health could be greatly affected as a result of the prolonged exposure to radiation.
To solve the problem, a space company in Seattle, Ultra Safe Nuclear Technologies, designed a space vehicle that will have nuclear-powered rockets that can drastically cut back on the 5-10 months that NASA has estimated for the journey to the planet. The tech might, however, not be totally safe for astronauts, experts say, though the company has stated that it made the design bearing in mind the risks it could pose on the health of those aboard, Indian Express reports.
One of the directors of the company, Michael Eades, stated that the design will separate the nuclear materials from the crew part of the vehicle so that the astronauts will not have to deal with any form of radiation from the nuclear propellants while aboard the spacecraft.
Jeff Shetty, head of the administration’s Space Technology Mission Directorate has applauded the technology, stating that the rockets could make a round trip possible in just two years. The tech will, however, have to overcome some challenges. First, the company will need to obtain uranium fuel that can bear the temperatures that will be available in an engine that uses nuclear propellants.
The Seattle-based company said it has solved the problem with a fuel that can operate in such temperatures. The fuel which was produced using silicon carbide will operate at temperatures above 2,000 degree Celsius, a company representative explained, adding that the fuel will stop the spread of radioactive substances into the crew area of the space vehicle.
According to reports, the special rockets will need to be conveyed to space using a normal rocket before the special rockets can take over the propelling of the spacecraft. The company also explained that the nuclear rockets will not come back to Earth in case of an accident or explosion since they have been designed to remain in space.