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Wednesday, November 1, 2000|
|Blasting off to the Red Planet|
Conventional rockets such as used aboard the Apollo missions and the Space Shuttle are fine when you only need to go into low Earth orbit or even to the moon. After that, a faster and more fuel-efficient method must be employed. Although some people would argue that "faster" is not necessarily important, the physical and mental degradation that occurs during prolonged space flight in a confined area cannot be tolerated.
One such alternative to the traditional rocket is known as plasma rocket. Franklin R. Chang Díaz first theorized one such engine in the 1980s while working on nuclear fusion technology. His design, the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, or VASIMR, is one of the most promising of all plasma rockets. If a properly designed VASIMR type rocket were given 200 megawatts of power it could reach Mars in just 39 days.
- posted by Brian @ 17:03 EST