Russia Is Building Nuclear Engines to Take Astronauts to Mars in Six Weeks

Tuesday, 15 March 2016 - 2:49PM
Technology
Mars
Tuesday, 15 March 2016 - 2:49PM
Russia Is Building Nuclear Engines to Take Astronauts to Mars in Six Weeks
Russia has just announced plans to build a nuclear space engine that will be ready for the testing stage in 2018, with the goal of implementing the technology in 2025. According to the announcement from the Rosatom nuclear corporation, the technology would allow a spacecraft to reach Mars in only six weeks, and have enough fuel to return to Earth.

If you wanted to go to Mars today, you would have to spend approximately 18 months getting there, and there wouldn't be enough fuel to return home. But with a functioning nuclear space engine, we could potentially reach the Red Planet in only 42 days.
Opening quote
"A nuclear power unit makes it possible to reach Mars in a matter of one to one and a half months, providing capability for maneuvering and acceleration," the head of Rosatom Sergey Kirienko told RT. "Today's engines can only reach Mars in a year and a half, without the possibility of return."
Closing quote

In 2010, believing that traditional rockets had run their course and outstayed their usefulness, Russia began the nuclear space engine project. By 2012, they had an engineering design, and they believe they can have a prototype ready for testing by 2018.

It's unclear from the announcement exactly how the engine would work, but it implies that the engine will be powered by thermal fission, in which the engine generates heat by splitting atoms and using the energy to burn hydrogen. It would be a challenge to create this type of groundbreaking technology on Russia's relatively small space exploration budget, which has led several experts to doubt that they can meet their goal by 2025, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the technology is impossible. NASA recently made an even bolder statement about interstellar travel, and claimed that there is no reason based in the laws of physics that we can't reach Mars in just 3 days.

Via Popular Science.
Science
Space
Technology
Mars

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