Nuke-powered spacecraft for Mars mission

Plans afoot to find human habitat on the red planet

Nuke-powered spacecraft for Mars mission

At a time when various countries are planning unmanned missions to Mars, a nuclear-powered spacecraft would probably be necessary to make the dream of setting up a human habitat on the ‘Red Planet’.

The proposal was put forth by students — Muhammad Shadab Khan and C C Gupta — of an engineering college, BBDNITM, from Lucknow during the ongoing Committee on Space Research (Cospar) meet held in the city.

The students said the nuclear propulsion system would be a potential solution for a long-term manned mission to Mars. Observing that the current technology was unfavourable for the distant journey, the students opined that there was requirement of a future Mars spacecraft with powerful propulsion system to enable return journey of humans.

Having to cover a distance of nearly 250 million miles to reach Mars, Khan said it was is difficult to predict the performance of existing spacecrafts to Mars.

With Man not travelling beyond the moon, he said the nuclear-powered spacecraft would need one kilogram of Uranium to generated 18 trillion joules of energy. Using such small amount of fuel, would reduce the overall weight of spacecraft and improve efficiency of the mission, he added.

Khan pointed out that low-space requirement, capability to work for long duration and huge amount of energy were the advantages of using nuclear-powered spacecraft.

However, high initial cost, complex mechanism and uncertainty about performance for long duration with humans on board need to be tested before taking up the project.

He said at present the USA and Russia were working on developing a nuclear-powered spacecraft.

Possible collaborations at an international level can help make travel to Mars and other interplanetary bodies faster. Safety aspects including thermal shielding, protection from meteroids and back-up system is also needed, he explained.

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