Space: Nuclear propulsion in the offing? Humans on Mars within a decade?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Jack Briggs, Jan 17, 2003.

  1. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    I bet some of you remember NASA's long-cancelled NERVA program ("nuclear engine for rocket-vehicle applications," deep-sixed in 1969). Though nuclear power on spacecraft is nothing new, nuclear-driven propulsion is. For decades at the top of NASA's wish list, nuclear propulsion has been on nearly permanent backburner status due to budgetary and political realities.
    The below-linked story is itself excerpted from a much longer Los Angeles Times piece that ran in this morning's edition. So, if this exciting and hopeful [*knocks on wood*] news truly leads somewhere, then maybe the manned space effort will get back on the track from which it has been derailed ever since Project Apollo was allowed to expire prematurely.
    Let's hope a majority of the tax-paying public will favor Project Prometheus:
    http://www.charlotte.com/mld/observer/news/4967388.htm
     
  2. MickeS

    MickeS Producer

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    Last October, I read in a Swedish paper an interview with a chef (yes, a Swedish chef! [​IMG]) who works for NASA> They asked him various questions about what kind of food they prepared for the astronauts and so on.
    In the interview, the chef said that he was also working on food for a manned mission to Mars (rough translation):
    "We are also working on the journey to Mars in 2018. It will take 3 years. That means that the astronauts will grow their own crops, which is incredibly complex."
    Now, remember that while this is Sweden's biggest daily newspaper, it's also somewhat of a tabloid. But that quote intrigued me, and I searched at the time for other information about this.
    I've wondered since if he was talking out of his ass, if the journalist misinterpreted it, or if there's some truth to it. Anyone know?
     
  3. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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    What are the dangers with using nuclear power in a spacecraft? Once in space, I can't see a problem, but how about takeoff from Earth. What would be the result of a Challenger like disaster? Are there no other technologies that could achieve the same propulsion gains, without the posibility of a nuclear accident?
     
  4. Julie K

    Julie K Screenwriter

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    I saw that this morning and was going to post a link, but then decided that two news stories were enough for me this morning.

    I was sure excited after reading the story. Now if only it gets funded. Come on guys, why isn't everyone excited by the prospect of going to Mars?

     
  5. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Jeff: What the excerpted version of the story omits are various scenarios discussed regarding mission logistics. The powerplant would itself be a payload aboard a conventional chemical rocket, to be assembled into a complete spacecraft once in orbit. Perhaps Julie has a link to the complete story? Please advise, Ms. K. JB
     
  6. Julie K

    Julie K Screenwriter

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    I don't have any other links than the LA Times one (which you have to register for [​IMG] ). I'm sure a final design is nowhere near completion but it would seem reasonable for the nuclear powerplant to be mated to the rest of the spacecraft in orbit.
     
  7. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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    The reason why they scream every time a nuclear powered item goes up is because if the rocket/shuttle explodes, they're worried the plutonium can vaporize and cause all sorts of bad things

    The fuel is usually inside an amazingly strong casing that will survive catastrophic explosion
     
  8. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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  9. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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  10. Alex Spindler

    Alex Spindler Producer

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    I don't know. If it would jump start manned space flight, I would be willing to hand carry it myself in a brown grocery bag. Anything to get us out of the rut and into genetic dispersion out into the universe.

    All it takes are a few trigger-happy people on the Chem/Bio/Nuclear buttons to wipe out our species right now.
     
  11. CharlesD

    CharlesD Screenwriter

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  12. Daren Welsh

    Daren Welsh Supporting Actor

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    I'll just poke my nose in and throw a link your way. A few years back, some classmates and I put together a Mars mission using an alternative propulsion device. One thing to consider is what you think is more dangerous to the crew -- a long period of zero-G space travel with high amounts of radiation exposure or a long period of time on the surface of Mars, where we have much less control over the elements and unknown?
    Our project can be found via the second University of Washington link, near the bottom.
     
  13. Ryan Wright

    Ryan Wright Screenwriter

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  14. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    Thanks for the link Jack. I knew that you posted this when I read the title. [​IMG]
     
  15. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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  16. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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  17. Julie K

    Julie K Screenwriter

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    There is no technology ever developed or that will ever be developed that will be 100% safe. The same is true of any human endeavor. You simply cannot have a fool-proof world. You can, however, minimize risks. Unfortunately most people have little knowledge or practice of properly assessing risks.

    Robert is exactly right in what waiting for all the 'issues' to be settled before the solar system is explored would mean. Issues, problems of one sort or another, will always be with us. Space exploration could easily solve some of most pressing concerns (like overpopulation pressures) right now. You will never get into space (and I don't believe we can 'pollute' space any more than any other life form can) if you wait until all humanity's problems are solved.
     
  18. Ryan Wright

    Ryan Wright Screenwriter

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  19. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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  20. Ashley Seymour

    Ashley Seymour Supporting Actor

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    Please explain what a manned mission to Mars in 2018 can accomplish that robotic probes can't accomplish?

    The use of nuclear propulsion to reach the outer planets and Kuiper belt makes the most sense. We will some day set up a base on the moon to mine rocks to sent off into a space station in geosyncronius orbit. The rocks will be be used in mass drivers powered by nuclear energy to propell space ships to the outer planets.

    These robotic probes will be used to bring back the first samples for Mars and further planets. Maybe by 2201 we should consider sending manned explorers.
     

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