The Mars Report – 39 Days to MARS?


VASIMR Engine Testing at Astra Rocket Company

VASIMR Engine Testing at Astra Rocket Company

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Welcome back My Dear Readers Shoevians to The Other Shoe. Today is a very special edition of ‘The Mars Report’ in that unlike all previous editions I will not be presenting images of Mars. I will not be sharing the progress of the adventuring sojourner the Curiosity rover. Nor will I be sharing High Definition images made from composites of Curiosity images and those taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

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Today I am re-launching this storied series of articles, here at The Other Shoe, by sharing groundbreaking news that man could arrive at Mars in just … … … (drum roll, please!)… … … THIRTY-NINE DAYS! This is a major development in America’s ‘Second Space Race’ with China. With current generation rockets and propulsion systems it would taken America astronauts nearly six months to reach Martian orbit from Earth. This has been the single largest prohibitive factor (besides funding from a shortsighted and narrow-minded Congressional Majority) in the planning for a journey to Mars.

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Six months of food, water, and air would weigh more than passengers, fuel and instrumentation combined! This all-new propulsion technology is, well, not ‘new’ at all IF you are a fan of ‘Star Trek’. I cannot count the number of times I have heard a cast member of; ‘Star Trek’, ‘Star Trek – the Next Generation’, ‘Enterprise’ (or any of the many television or movies) talk about a ‘plasma manifold’ or other plasma related device or rocket. For us Trekies the idea of using accelerated plasma ions is commonplace.

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(Lewis Research Labs Pilot Plasma Engine 1961[2])

Lewis Research Labs Pilot Plasma Engine 1961

Lewis Research Labs Pilot Plasma Engine 1961

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As far back as 1961 scientists have toyed with different types of plasma engines or rockets. The biggest difference between our current solid or liquid fueled rockets and plasma rockets is plasma will only work in space. Our current rocket technology works to lift bodies from the surface of the planet into orbit. However, these plasma rockets, when in space, far outstrip the capabilities of current rockets. There are many kinds/types of plasma engines/rockets. Here is a listing and simple explanation of the six primary types:

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 Breakdown Helicon Double Layer Thruster

Breakdown Helicon Double Layer Thruster

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  • Helicon Double Layer Thruster – Using radio waves to actually create the plasma flow and magnetic nozzles to funnel the flow, this type of rocket is ideal for maneuvering space craft. They are capable of creating thrust ten times that of their chemical counterparts.
  • Magnetoplasmadynamic Thrusters – Yeah… As the name indicates this type of thruster makes us of electromagnetism (Lorentz Force[3]) and an electrical current to supercharge the gas.
  • Hall Effect ThrustersHall effect thrusters combine a strong localized static magnetic field perpendicular to the electric field created between an upstream anode and a downstream cathode called neutralizer, to create a “virtual cathode” (area of high electron density) at the exit of the device. This virtual cathode then attracts the ions formed inside the thruster closer to the anode. Finally the accelerated ion beam is neutralized by some of the electrons emitted by the neutralizer.[4]
  • Electrodeless Plasma Thrusters – Which uses pondermotive force on gas or charged particle while under the influence of a strong electromagnetic energy gradient to accelerate the plasma.
  • SPT Series – Serial Production was started in the former Soviet Union in the 1070’s.
  • VASIMR – Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket works by using radio waves to ionize a propellant into plasma and then a magnetic field to accelerate the plasma out of the back of the rocket engine to generate thrust.[5]

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The engine currently under development for NASA’s use for the Mars project is the VASIMR type plasma rocket engine. Capable of propelling a spacecraft carrying humans to speeds of greater than 129,000 miles per hour, this rocket could deliver American astronauts to Martian orbit in just thirty-nine days!

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Astra VASIMR Engine Breakdown

Astra VASIMR Engine Breakdown

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NASA has awarded the Astra Rocket Company with the (ten-year) contract to develop the VASIMR rocket engine. The video, below, shows the current level VASIMR plasma engine running. Running at just under sixty seconds, this is one of their very first prototypes. The science is sound, the potential is enormous. Future generations of humans could use like engines to take them beyond our solar system in a single lifetime!

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Thank you!

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Adieu!

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© 2010 – 2015 Hanning Web Wurx and The Other Shoe

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About Daniel Hanning
I am a; writer, editor and publisher. I write, most often, articles about our space program, fun videos andpolitical works. My most recent additions are; A Week In Review, Sunday Funnies and The Adventures of Nadia. Along with The Mars Report and Lost in Space. ENJOY!

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