The Secret to Colonizing Mars Is Old Technology

Tuesday, 14 November 2017 - 12:26PM
Space
Technology
Mars
No
Tuesday, 14 November 2017 - 12:26PM
The Secret to Colonizing Mars Is Old Technology
Image credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons
NASA has found the secret to the future of space exploration hiding in our past. Technology the government abandoned in 1972 may be the key to humans reaching Mars.

A trip to Mars means subjecting passengers to the dangers of space, not to mention the dangers of boredom, but NASA is working on a plan to get its crafts to the Red Planet faster—by using engine tech devised over 40 years ago.
 
NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) is in charge of developing, fixing and upgrading tech and tech potential in order to make missions both current and future workable. Among its programs is GCD ("Game Changing Development"), which is in place to identify and nurture such tech; part of its duties is to "investigate novel ideas and approaches that have the potential to revolutionize future space missions."



To innovate for the future of space exploration, GCD looked backward instead of forward and realized Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) may be the secret to getting humans on Mars. 

Studied by the U.S. for use by way of ground testing from 1955 to 1972, NTP was shelved when a crewed Mars mission became a lesser priority. 
 
NTP uses uranium or deuterium reactions to heat liquid hydrogen inside a reactor, turning it into plasma and conducting that through a nozzle to generate thrust.

Using fission offers much more potential than rocket fuel. That means that not only would the amount of propellant be reduced; it could also lead to a faster journey-cutting an expected six-month trip to four months, which would reduce the amount of radiation exposure for astronauts and lessen the amount of time they'd be stuck in a rocket.



NASA announced on August 2, 2017 that it was contracting with BWXT Nuclear Energy, Inc. of Lynchburg, Va., to work on the possibilities of advancing and utilizing Nuclear Thermal Propulsion Technology.

BWXT announced on its website the same day that it's "extremely pleased to be working with NASA on this exciting nuclear space program in support of the Mars mission." 
 
BWXT President and Chief Executive Officer Rex D. Geveden added, "We are uniquely qualified to design, develop and manufacture the reactor and fuel for a nuclear-powered spacecraft. This is an opportune time to pivot our capabilities into the space market where we see long-term growth opportunities in nuclear propulsion and nuclear surface power."  
 
Science
NASA
Space
Technology
Mars
The Secret to Colonizing Mars Is Old Technology
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