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NASA will test launch nuclear-powered spacecraft for the first time to try and get to Mars faster

NASA will test launch nuclear-powered spacecraft for the first time to try and get to Mars faster

A new type of nuclear-powered spacecraft is set to blast off within the next decade, which Nasa hopes will change space travel forever.

Nasa has revealed that it plans to use nuclear-powered spacecrafts to help humanity land on Mars.

Whilst it sounds like the stuff of science fiction, the space agency has been perfecting the technology for over 60 years and the first rockets could soon be blasting off.

In fact, the insane tech could be tested within the next couple of years.

Before you get too excited about visiting the red planet, you’d best come back down to Earth.

Though nuclear thermal rockets (NTR) have been in development since 1961, the first rocket will play among the stars as it will only reach Earth’s orbit.

However, the first NTR should take off in late 2025 or early 2026, with follow-up missions if it’s successful.

In fact, NASA hopes that the new rockets could help humanity reach the red planet faster, potentially by the late 2030s or early 2040s.

Spearheaded by the space agency and the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the craft will also be built by aerospace company, Lockheed Martin.

The nuclear powered rockets could take flight within the next decade.

During a press conference, the company’s VP of Lunar Exploration campaigns, Kirk Shireman, gushed about the exciting project.

“We're going to put this together, we're going to fly this demonstration, gather a bunch of great data and really, we believe, usher in a new age for the United States [and] for humankind, to support our space exploration mission,” he told journalists.

However, there’s even more good news for space fans as the rockets could rapidly reduce travel time.

Currently, most spacecraft use chemical propulsion which is where an oxidiser mixes with rocket fuel to create a flaming jet – pushing the rocket forward.

It’s why you get the iconic blast off, during every rocket launch.

Humanity could land on the red planet by the late 2030s.

With the new nuclear tech though, rockets would use a form of nuclear fission to heat a hydrogen propellant which propels the ship skyward.

According to Live Science, the NTR could be ‘three or more time efficient’ and could see astronauts reach the red planet in just 45 days!

If we were to rely on the same current chemical rockets, Nasa estimates that the same trip could take up to seven months.

Understandably, scientists are a little excited about the proposed rockets as it will also be less risky for those on board.

“'If we have swifter trips for humans, they are safer trips,” explained Nasa’s deputy administrator, Pam Melroy.

We can’t wait to see future Buzz Lightyears blast off!

Featured Image Credit: DARPA / ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Topics: Science, Space, NASA