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Space & Astronomy

NASA aiming to cut Mars travel time in half

June 8, 2015 | Comment icon 22 comments



The shorter the travel time to Mars the better. Image Credit: NASA/Pat Rawlings
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has outlined the space agency's plans for getting humans to Mars.
Speaking during a visit to the Aerojet Rocketdyne plant in California on Thursday, Bolden emphasized that sending humans to the Red Planet is a goal that may ultimately require the implementation of sophisticated new spacecraft propulsion technologies.

In particular his comments indicated that the current travel time from Earth to Mars is too long to make such a journey feasible and that shortening the trip should be a top priority.

"Right now it's about an eight-month mission; we'd like to cut that in half," he said.

Reducing the travel time would help to substantially limit the astronauts' exposure to radiation during the trip while reducing the amount of food, water and oxygen needed to keep them alive.
One of the ways in which a mission could make it to Mars within four months would be to use a much more powerful propulsion system - perhaps even one based on nuclear energy like the NERVA (Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Performance) system NASA was looking in to decades ago.

"This country did a lot of work on that back in the 1960s and 1970s, and there is some technology being looked at regarding the fuels aspects of that, to make it lower cost and safer for the future," said Julie Van Kleeck, Aerojet Rocketdyne's Vice President of Advanced Space & Launch Systems.

Investment in the development of game-changing new propulsion systems is certainly a strategy that NASA has been showing an interest in lately but whether or not something truly revolutionary will turn up in time to help trivialize a trip to Mars remains to be seen.

"I want industry to focus on getting people to move really fast," said Bolden. "I think we can do far better than we are doing today, but we've got to show our commitment by putting money into it."

Source: Space.com | Comments (22)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #13 Posted by socrates.junior 7 years ago
I agree with you completely. The statement was valid but not sound was my point.
Comment icon #14 Posted by TheGreatBeliever 7 years ago
Wonder if the space elevator could connect us to mars..
Comment icon #15 Posted by stevemagegod 7 years ago
I say we just set up a Moon Base before a Mars Base in my Life time.
Comment icon #16 Posted by Zalmoxis 7 years ago
With enough torch lighters you can reach 60% the speed of light according to Harte. How long that would take you or how many torch lighters you would need is anyones guess.
Comment icon #17 Posted by Harte 7 years ago
Actually, a chemical propellant rocket can take you to greater speeds than that - but it would take a long time and a butt load of fuel. The "60% or so" is for the calculation of the acceleration. It's not linear after (around) that point so F=ma doesn't give the correct acceleration, as mass increases at a non-linear rate and it becomes significant around 60% of c. Harte
Comment icon #18 Posted by JesseCuster 7 years ago
There's no drag in space aside of gravity so to a certain degree they could go as fast as they want to go and all that limits them is the resources imparted to them. In theory, if planned well enough, they could launch extra rockets into orbit then attach them after launch then drift out into space with 100 rockets attached to their spaceship, then burn them off one after the other, letting the spent rockets fall off into space. The more rockets with fuel you attach to your spacecraft, the less effective they become as they will waste fuel simply accelerating their own extra mass and their fue... [More]
Comment icon #19 Posted by bmk1245 7 years ago
[...] Also, what do you do when your rocket approaches Mars at 250,000mph (or what velocity it might be)? Good luck slowing that thing down to land it or park it in orbit. Heh, like peeing on two fingers... Carry $#!t load of fuel, and fire when decelerating...
Comment icon #20 Posted by Zalmoxis 7 years ago
The more rockets with fuel you attach to your spacecraft, the less effective they become as they will waste fuel simply accelerating their own extra mass and their fuel instead of the payload. Also, what do you do when your rocket approaches Mars at 250,000mph (or what velocity it might be)? Good luck slowing that thing down to land it or park it in orbit. What force is the mass accelerating against? I thought all small matter was weightless in open space.
Comment icon #21 Posted by JesseCuster 7 years ago
What force is the mass accelerating against? I thought all small matter was weightless in open space. The mass of your spacecraft (payload, rockets, fuel, etc.). Your spacecraft might be effectively weightless (or close enough), but it's not massless, and mass needs force to accelerate it even in the weightless environment of space. The problem is simply that the more mass you have, the more force you need to accelerate it by any given amount (F=ma). Adding more rockets and more fuel to your spacecraft is going to mean adding more mass to be accelerated and you get diminishing returns the more... [More]
Comment icon #22 Posted by JesseCuster 7 years ago
Heh, like peeing on two fingers... Carry $#!t load of fuel, and fire when decelerating... Carrying that extra fuel to slow you down when you get to Mars is going to require extra fuel to accelerate that extra mass of fuel on the way to Mars.


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