On October 8, 2015, NASA published its strategy for human exploration and colonisation of Mars, with the concept operating through three distinct phases leading up to fully sustained civilisation on the Red Planet sometime in the mid-2030s. Current technology restrictions mean that the journey to the Red Planet would take roughly seven months due to the huge distance and vast amounts of fuel needed to carry a crew across the cosmos, but US rocket propulsion company Ad Astra Rockets may be ready to change all that. NASA’s former Chief scientist, Dr James Garvin, revealed during Amazon Prime’s “Tomorrow’s World” why the space agency is calling out for help.
He said last year: “The distance from the Earth to the Moon versus the distance from the Earth to Mars on average is a difference of 1,500 to 3,000 times further.
“Today, to imagine doing it, is perhaps thousands of times more difficult than sending tremendously capable machines that are currently present.
“Three years is a long time in space.
“The longest time human beings have ever spent in deep space in the history of all humanity was 12 days during Apollo.”
The rocket could reach Mars in two months
NASA is exploring possible options
Inside a revolutionary rocket engine is being evaluated
Dr Garvin revealed why it is key for scientists to get their heads together to solve the problem.
He added: “That’s our collective record of experience in deep space.
“But, one of the big paradigm shifts that we believe is so important is to separate crew from cargo.
“Ultimately we can invent new in space propulsion systems that will change how we get to Mars.
“There is ultimately a way we can make Mars much more accessible and that revolution hasn’t happened yet.”
Dr Garvin hopes to conquer Mars
However, it would appear NASA’s prayers have been answered.
The documentary explained: “In the US, private labs are ready to compete with NASA in inventing tomorrow’s means of propulsion.
“In Houston, Texas, the premises of Ad Astra Rocket look unassuming, but inside a revolutionary rocket engine is being evaluated.
“It’s a variable specific impulse magneto plasma rocket, or VASIMR for short.
“Its inventor is Franklin Chang-Diaz, a former astronaut of seven space missions.”
Dr Franklin Chang-Diaz, Founder of Ad Astra Rockets detailed the new technology.
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The plasma rocket
Dr Chang-Diaz is a veteran astronaut
He said in 2018: “The VASIMR engine is a new type of rocket, it is a plasma rocket, an electric rocket.
“It’s a device that can allow us to move more swiftly in space with a lot less fuel, and open up, essentially, the entire Solar System.
“Typically, rocket engines work the same way, by the actions and reactions.
“We have taken the same process, but eliminated chemistry all together and use electrical power to heat a gas to extreme temperature.”
The features were broken down into Layman’s terms during the series.
The narrator explained: “Today, Dr Chang-Diaz and his team are testing the engine for the 10,000th time, it’s the result of over 30 years of research, and eight years of operations.
“When the engineer’s switch the engine on, an unstable gas, argon, is injected into the first chamber.
“It’s bombarded by radar waves, which rip the electrons off the atoms, turning the argon into plasma, a very high energy particle soup.
“The plasma is channelled to a second firing, reaching a temperature of millions of degrees and a system of magnets force it out at over 50km/s.
“With such temperatures, the VASIMR could go faster and further with much less fuel, Dr Chang-Diaz hopes his prototype would get a team to Mars in under two months.”
NASA’s Mars mission is split into three distinct phases leading up to a fully sustained civilisation.
The first stage, already underway, is the “Earth Reliant” phase, this will continue to use the International Space Station until 2024, validating deep space technologies and studying the effects of long-duration space missions on the human body.
The second stage, “Proving Ground,” ventures into cislunar space for most of its tasks, to test deep-space habitation facilities, and validate capabilities required for human exploration of Mars.
Finally, phase three, the “Earth Independent” stage includes long-term missions on the Red Planet with surface habitats that only require routine maintenance, and the harvesting of Martian resources for fuel, water, and building materials.