News in Mews: Plasma rocket can reach Mars in just 39 days

WASHINGTON: Nasa is looking forward to flying a plasma-powered rocket to survey an asteroid that could take astronauts to Mars in a little over a month’s time.

The rocket called Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) is a twin of one being developed for testing aboard the International Space Station.

VASIMR technology uses radio waves to ionize propellants like argon, xenon or hydrogen, and heat the resulting plasma to temperatures 20 times hotter than that on solar surface. It uses magnetic fields instead of metal nozzles to control the direction of the exhaust.

Equipped with an electric propulsion system, the rocket is being built to transport astronauts to Mars in 39 to 45 days someday — a fraction of the six to nine months the trip would take with conventional chemical rockets.

Shorter travel time for astronauts means reduced exposure to deadly cosmic and solar radiation which currently is a big hurdle for missions to Mars. “All of a sudden, the future is here,” Discovery News quoted VASIMR inventor and physicist Franklin Chang-Diaz as saying.

The article is published by

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