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New engine could take us to Mars in 39 days

Posted on Thursday, 2 April, 2015 | Comment icon 23 comments

Ad Astra's engine could shorten the time it takes to reach Mars. Image Credit: NASA/Pat Rawlings
NASA has revealed a partnership with the firm behind a new super-fast deep space engine.
Ad Astra, a Texas-based rocket company, surprised everyone when it unveiled a remarkable new type of engine that could cut the travel time of a mission to Mars from months to just weeks.

NASA successfully test fired a prototype of the VASIMR engine back in 2013 and now Ad Astra has become one of the space agency's newest partners in the hopes of developing the technology to the point where it can be used in actual space missions.

"Commercial partners were selected for their technical ability to mature key technologies and their commitment to the potential applications both for government and private sector uses," said NASA's William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations.
"This work ultimately will inform the strategy to move human presence further into the solar system."

If all goes well the new engine could drastically reduce the time it takes to get to Mars, opening up the possibility of shorter, cheaper manned missions in the not-too-distant future.

"We are thrilled by this announcement and proud to be joining forces with NASA in the final steps of the technology maturation," said Ad Astra CEO Dr Franklin Chang Diaz. "We look forward to a very successful partnership as we jointly advance the technology to flight readiness."

Source: Sputnik News | Comments (23)

Tags: NASA, Mars, Ad Astra

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #14 Posted by OverSword on 3 April, 2015, 0:41
Firstly your maths is out. The distance you have chosen is a little over the average distance between Earth and Mars, which is around 140,000,000 miles. However launches to Mars happen around every two when the two planets are closest at around 40 million miles. This gives us a speed of nearer 43,000 mph. Secondly a round trip to the Moon is around 480,000 miles,so even at your 150,000 mph the trip would take more than 3 hours. Finally a VASIMR engine doesn't work this way. It produces a small acceleration over a long time. To get to Mars in 39 days the engine would constantly produce a small ... [More]
Comment icon #15 Posted by OverSword on 3 April, 2015, 0:42
Interesting. If I remember correctly, not even the world of Star Trek had ion drives, except a couple of alien races. From the episode "Spock's Brain"
Comment icon #16 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 3 April, 2015, 1:21
When I first heard the 39 day thing I was thinking that would be a lot of G's for humans. But I suppose if you were averaging 1 or 1.25 G's the whole time it may actually not be that bad. As I said it is low thrust over long periods of time so it will be a tiny fraction of 1 g. Remember that the space shuttle reached 17,500 mph in 8 minutes If we assume an average velocity of 43,000 mph in order to reach Mars in 39 days. If we further assume that the craft spends half the time accelerating from 0 mph and half decelerating to 0 mph (a slight simplification but good enough for a ball park figure... [More]
Comment icon #17 Posted by Noteverythingisaconspiracy on 3 April, 2015, 9:53
The problem with VASIMR, and indeed all eletric propulsion methods, are that they require a lot of electrical power if they are to accelerate quickly. Presently we simply don't have the technology to built lightweight power systems that can do the job and this is why such systems have so far been used on slowly accelerating space crafts (e.g Dawn, Smart-1 and Deep Space 1) While they can achieve very high velocities, it takes months to achieve it. While it would be possible to built a VASIMR rocket that could accelerate quickly, it would have to have a very big powerplant, which translate into... [More]
Comment icon #18 Posted by ancient astronaut on 7 April, 2015, 1:11
I wanna see it in action.
Comment icon #19 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 8 April, 2015, 12:03
I wanna see it in action. They are ion and plasma engines are incredibly unimpressive things to see in action. No flames, no smoke, such a small thrust produced that they can't even lift their own weight on Earth.
Comment icon #20 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 8 April, 2015, 12:39
The real usefulness of systems like VASIMR is not the velocity they can achieve, but the fact that they can achieve normal velocities with less fuel expenditure. Such systems are useful for unmanned space crafts that can take their time accelerating, but not for a manned mission. In addition to the long time it would have to use accelerating, it would have to use a similar long time deccelerating once arriving at Mars and then repeat the whole thing once you go back to Earth. You are slightly missing the point here. You are assuming that the VASIMR engine is replacing a conventional, rocket po... [More]
Comment icon #21 Posted by Noteverythingisaconspiracy on 8 April, 2015, 16:16
Now I do realise that VASMIR is controversial and that many do not see it as the answer, however it is worth noting that most of those that are vocal in their criticism of VASMIR are supporters of other ion drive concepts. Whilst they share your doubts about VASMIR they most certainly do not share your views in electric propulsion in general. Is VASMIR the answer? I haven't a clue. Is some kind of electric propulsion the answer? Highly likely. I don't think that I ever said that I was against the VASIMR engine ? What I did was point out that the whole "39 days to Mars" is based on an unrealist... [More]
Comment icon #22 Posted by xxxdemonxxx on 10 April, 2015, 0:34
I'm certain NASA has considered the mathematics. There's one thing that's for sure. If anyone can get mankind to Mars, it's NASA. Whether it be sooner or later, eventually the United States (considering our space program is still in order), will put boots on the Martian surface. This nation is currently the only nation in the world that is even remotely capable of such a feat, our technology being superior in many fields; and as fast as technology is advancing (look at the past 100 years for reference), I think this can be accomplished over the next 40 to 60 years. But this shouldn't be rushed... [More]
Comment icon #23 Posted by clare256 on 10 April, 2015, 19:29
We may not be ready to undertake such a mission now, but at least our scientists are moving forward with this. The United States wastes a lot of money and resources on insignificant things, when we could divert those resources to boost our space program and research. Funny you should say that. I remember the first moon landing, people were complaining about the money being spent at NASA and how we could spend that much and end hunger -- yada yada yada.

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