NASA and the Pentagon will develop a nuclear-powered rocket to go to Mars

The human being will go beyond the Moon. It is in any case the wish of the Nasa and Pentagon. The US space agency announced on Tuesday a partnership with the Department of Defense to develop a rocket propelled by energy nuclear in order to send humans on March. Space agency boss Bill Nelson said he is partnering with the US military’s research agency, Darpa, to “develop and test advanced nuclear thermal propulsion technology as early as 2027”.

“With the help of this technology, astronauts could travel to and from deep space faster than ever before,” a capability needed to conduct manned missions to Mars, he said, quoted in a statement. Darpa, the scientific arm of the American army, is at the origin of many innovations of the 20th century, including Internet. According to NASA, a nuclear-powered thermal rocket could be three to four times more efficient than conventionally fueled rockets and reduce travel time, an essential part of getting to the Red Planet.

A project abandoned more than fifty years ago

In a thermal nuclear rocket, a nuclear fission reactor produces very high temperatures. This heat is transferred to a liquid fuel, turned into gas and – as in a conventional rocket – this is expelled through a nozzle to provide thrust. “Darpa and NASA have a long history of successful collaborations,” said the director of the military research agency Stefanie Tompkins, citing as an example the Saturn V rocket, which sent the Apollo missions to the Moon.

The development of this new type of launcher “will be crucial to more quickly and efficiently transport equipment to the Moon and, subsequently, people to Mars”, she added. NASA had conducted tests of a nuclear rocket more than fifty years ago, but the project had been halted due to budget cuts and tensions in the cold War.

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