Thanks to a breakthrough in rocket technology, accomplishing the goal of sending humans to Mars may be closer than ever before.
A company called the Ad Astra Rocket Company is developing a new type of rocket that may allow travel to Mars in under six weeks. Currently, it takes almost six months to reach the Red Planet.
The Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, or VASIMR, is a game-changer because of its use of plasma and magnets. With the use of the rocket, humans could make it to Mars in a mere 39 days.
According to Dr. Franklin Chang-Díaz, a former astronaut and the CEO of Ad Astra,
It is a rocket like no other rocket that you might have seen in the past. It is a plasma rocket. The VASIMR engine is not used for launching things into space or landing them back but rather it is used for things already there. We call this 'in-space propulsion.'
However, the rocket would need nuclear power in order to make it all the way to Mars.
According to Robert Zubrin, the Mars Society president, that is an issue because the rocket would require "nuclear electric power systems with 10,000 times the power and 1/100th the mass per unit power as any that have ever been built."
For now, this is a step in the right direction, but it may ultimately prove to be little more than wishful thinking.