Difficult Problems: Scientists Develop A New Propulsion System For NASA That Will Take Humans To Mars In Just 45 days

One of the most difficult problems to tackle in order to populate Mars is how to swiftly restock people on the Red Planet. To that goal, a team of academics devised a clever plan that uses a laser to transport a spacecraft to Mars in just 45 days, saving months of trip time.

According to Phys.org, a team from McGill University created a system that uses a 10-meter wide laser array on Earth to power an orbiting spacecraft. The laser would heat the ship’s hydrogen plasma until it produced enough superheated hydrogen gas to drive it to Mars. Essentially, it would allow us to provide interplanetary pushing force from Earth without having to launch all that heavy fuel into orbit.

Emmanuel Duplay, lead author of a research paper and former student at McGill University’s Summer Undergraduate Research in Engineering Program, said: “Laser-thermal propulsion enables rapid transport missions of one ton with laser arrays the size of a volleyball court.”

The concept was created when NASA launched an engineering challenge to devise a way of transporting a 1,000-kilogramme payload to Mars in no more than 45 days.

Their method, described in an article published in the journal Acta Astronautica, would be capable of transporting critical supplies and astronauts to Mars settlements in a trip that would normally take months in standard chemically-fueled rockets.

When it arrives at Mars, it will use the thin atmosphere of the Red Planet to “aerobrake” – a delicate and possibly risky manoeuvre that swiftly decelerates the ship. While classic spacecraft would utilise chemical propellants to stop, carrying the fuel would add weight to the payload. Using Mars’ atmosphere gets around this.

You can read more about this in more detail, here.

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