By the year 2035, the American Space Organization, NASA is planning to land a man on Mars. However, it is not easy to get to this planet which is about 22 million km away from the Earth and to come back from there. The environment of Mars is completely hostile to humans. The temperature in mars is cold as Antarctica, while there is no oxygen. In such adverse circumstances, there is a great risk of landing on Mars and returning from there. The risk will be increased in long journeys. This is the reason that scientists are thinking of ways to cut down on the time of Mars visit.
Seattle-based Ultra Safe Nuclear Technologies in the US has found a solution in the form of a nuclear thermal propulsion engine (NTP). It can help to reach Mars in just three months. Currently, the unmanned spacecraft takes a minimum of seven months to get on Mars, but a manned spacecraft may take nine months. The nuclear power rockets will be more powerful and efficient than the chemical rockets which are used today. And this power rockets will reduce energy consumption. This will open up commercial opportunities in the space.
Jeff Sheehy, a NASA chief engineer, says chemical rockets will take three years to go to Mars and return from there. NASA wants to reach Mars with greater speed so that astronauts spend the least time in outer space. This will reduce his exposure to space radiation. This radiation has an adverse effect on human health, which increases the risk of radiation sickness and cancer. Radiation also affects the nervous system and there is a risk of causing carcinogenic disease. There is always a risk of mechanical malfunctions if you stay in space for a long time. This is why NASA wants to develop nuclear rocket technology. Therefore many risks will be reduced by nuclear rockets.
In NTP systems, a nuclear reactor is used to generate heat from uranium fuel. This heat energy heats up a liquid propellant. Liquid hydrogen is used as a propellant. On heating, it spreads as gas and exits to produce velocity. The biggest challenge in making NTP engines is that of suitable uranium fuel. This fuel should be capable of operating at a temperature of 2,427 ° C. Silicon carbide is used in the fuel to prevent irradiated products from leaving the reactor. Nuclear rockets are certainly attractive, but concerns about radiation in the spacecraft still persist.