Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists announced they have made a significant step towards achieving ignition, a process needed to make fusion energy viable. For the first time ever, researchers say they have gotten more energy out of fusion fuel than what they poured into it to start a reaction.
University of Washington researchers are working on a new design for a fusion-driven rocket that they say could cut a round-trip voyage to Mars to 90 days or less.
“The future of manned space exploration and development of space depends critically on the creation of a dramatically more proficient propulsion system for in-space transportation,” wrote the project team in a paper on their propulsion design. “Nuclear fuel contains energy densities that dwarf the energy of any chemical combustion. The fusion-driven rocket … offers a realistic approach to fusion propulsion systems.”
If their design works as they believe it will, their engine could propel a Mars-bound spacecraft at more than 12 miles per second. If they were able to build a working craft by 2020, the red planet would be around 36 days travelling time from Earth at that speed. According to astronomy professor Courtney Seligman, in October of that year the two planets will be a relatively close 38.6 million miles apart.