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Researchers developing fusion rocket to slash travel time of Mars missions

By David Szondy
April 8, 2013

Traveling through deep space is a hazardous undertaking and choosing the right engine can mean the difference between a fast, successful mission and a slow one with mounting dangers of radiation sickness, equipment failures and personal conflicts. A team of researchers from the University of Washington (UW) and Redmond, Washington-based MSNW are aiming to expand the options by developing a new fusion drive rocket engine that promises to make possible a manned spacecraft that could reach Mars and return to Earth in months rather than years.

There are a number of ways of getting to Mars, but the options are pretty limited if it includes having a crew on board. The obvious choice is chemical rockets. That’s how all space vehicles from Earth are launched and most are set on their trajectories. It’s a tried and trusted technology, but long ago reached the point of diminishing returns. Without getting into the maths, using chemical rockets would mean building a huge Mars ship that is mostly fuel with a tiny payload that will take years to complete the journey.

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