To Mars in 6 weeks

Done in the manner of our current technology for spaceflight a trip from Earth to Mars takes 6 months. That’s bad enough for unmanned probes. For a manned flight that means 6 months of subjecting humans to an environment being blasted by radiation the magnetosphere on Earth normally protects us from and requiring the ship to carry food and air for the trip as well as what they’ll need when they get there. There are a number of approaches we’re looking into to handle that but one of the more obvious ones is to complete the trip faster. That’s where a company called the Ad Astra Rocket Company comes in. They’ve got an idea for an advanced ion engine that could cut the trip from 6 months to 6 weeks:

Conventional ion engines blast a small stream of charges particles to propel a spacecraft. They start slow but can build up tremendous speeds over time.

Still, the regular ion engine wouldn’t get us to Mars very fast.

So Ad Astra uses superpowered magnets to heat the ion stream — and would mount a nuclear reactor on a Mars-bound craft to make it even more powerful.

Interesting, to say the least. The full story’s at New Scientist magazine. Ion engines have already been used by NASA and Japan, for example, but Ad Astra’s looks to make theirs even more powerful. Bring it on, boys & girls!