NASA to test nuclear rocket engine for possible Mars missions – CNN
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A nuclear thermal rocket engine in development could one day transport humans to Mars.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a research arm of the US Department of Defense, and NASA are setting their sights on a type of rocket engine that could be the holy grail for quickly and safely getting humans to the red planet. The first tests could occur as soon as 2027, according to a Tuesday news release from the space agency.
“DARPA and NASA have a long history of fruitful collaboration in advancing technologies for our respective goals, from the Saturn V rocket that took humans to the Moon for the first time to robotic servicing and refueling of satellites,” DARPA director Dr. Stefanie Tompkins said in a statement. “The space domain is critical to modern commerce, scientific discovery, and national security.”
The US military and NASA sought to develop this type of technology in the mid-20th century, but the program stalled. Now, the initiative is gaining new traction in the modern era as the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations, or DRACO, program.
Research into nuclear thermal rocket engines by NASA began in 1959. A key program in the 1960s, called the Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application, even sought to demonstrate the technology in space — but that never came to fruition.
“Funding for NERVA, however, decreased in the late 1960s and the program was cancelled in 1973 before any flight tests of the engine took place,” according to the space agency’s website.
These days, NASA has renewed interest in sending humans to the red planet. The space agency’s Artemis program, which had …….