Mars in 45 days? NASA's new project to reach the Red Planet quickly

While all eyes are on the Moon, NASA already has Mars in its sights. A new type of technology studied by NASA would allow us to reach Mars in an extremely short time.

Mars in 45 days? NASA's new crazy project to reach the red planet quickly
© The Martian / 20th Century Studios
Mars in 45 days? NASA's new crazy project to reach the red planet quickly

After the Moon, Mars? This seems to be the plan led by NASA and the other world space agencies. In 2022, the first stage of the Artemis program was successfully completed, and the return of our species to the Moon seems closer than ever. But 'landing' on our natural satellite is one thing, landing on Mars is another.

Discover our latest podcast

Since the distance to the Red Planet is much greater (384,400 km for the Moon, and at least several tens of millions of kilometres for Mars), the journey is longer, more expensive and more dangerous. But a new type of propulsion could significantly reduce the trip's cost, risks and duration.

The trip to Mars is risky

Technology may have made giant strides since Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon, but interplanetary travel is still far from being as smooth as it is in our science fiction movies. Today, sending a shuttle to Mars would take about six months. Do the math, and you'll realize that the shortest mission would take at least a year.

This travel time is bad news in many ways. On the one hand, it means a lot of physical and mental fatigue for the astronauts, and on the other hand, it exposes them to dangerous radiation over medium lengths of time, in addition to multiplying the health risks that space travel can cause.

Shortening the journey duration would therefore only have advantages, but to achieve this, it is necessary to find a more efficient means of propulsion than the one currently used by NASA.

Bimodal nuclear propulsion

What if the solution came from the atom? As part of its NIAC innovation program, NASA has just selected the propulsion concept of Professor Ryan Gosse, from the University of Florida. With his team, this professor intends to design a 'revolutionary' propulsion methodbased on nuclear energy: bimodal nuclear propulsion.

Read more:

A 'fluffy marshmallow' has been discovered, can it hold life?

Astronaut discovered a hidden treasure in the ocean from space

'First dog in space': The dark reality of what happened to Laika

'Bimodal', because this system relies on two technologies, thermal nuclear propulsion and electric nuclear propulsion. The Born to Engineer website explains:

Nuclear-Thermal Propulsion (NTP), employs a powerful combination – converting liquid hydrogen propellant heated by an onboard reactor into plasma and then expelling it through nozzles for thrust.
While Nuclear-Electric Propulsion (NEP) is a cutting-edge, efficient form of propulsion that harnesses nuclear power to generate thrust. The reactor powers an ion engine using electricity, producing an electromagnetic field that charges inert gas particles and propels them forward as powerful jets for extraordinary bursts of speed

With this technology, round trips between the Red Planet and Earth would take just 90 days, which would give us plenty of time to rescue Matt Damon, should he find himself alone on Mars. But it should be noted that this technology is still at the concept stage and that it is not likely to equip our shuttles before many years, or even decades.

This article was translated from Gentside FR.

Sources used:

Born to Engineer: 'Meet The NASA Nuclear Propulsion Concept Which Could Get To Mars In Just 45 Days'

NASA releases new photos of Mars illuminated by the sun NASA releases new photos of Mars illuminated by the sun