A plasma-based spacecraft can halve the time to reach Mars
A retired Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield, thinks that building a rocket based on plasma can reduce the time travel and size of the rocket by half.
NASA and SpaceX are currently working on building spacecraft that can take us to Mars. But the crafts under construction use chemicals for the propulsion of the rocket.
However, a retired Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield, thinks that building a rocket based on plasma can reduce the time travel and size of the rocket by half. If a chemical propulsion system takes six months or more to travel to Mars, the plasma-based system would take around two to three times less than the chemical-based engines.
The size of the cargo or the accommodation might need to be reduced too. A plasma-based engine can send 60 metric tons of cargo to Mars in about 90 days.
The astronauts while talking to CBC suggested moving from propellers to jets or something equivalent. Ad Astra Rocket Company (AARC) is a US-based spaceflight technology company working on the development of advanced plasma rocket propulsion called Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) technology.
The technology is stated to bring about a 'paradigm shift' in spaceflight technology. The chemical propulsion system uses chemicals like hydrogen and oxygen to produce thrust. Chang Diaz, the CEO of Ad Astra Rocket Company an expert of plasma physics says, "This is a very sort of primitive way of transporting anything in space."
The new plasma-based technology has no combustion (burning) in its propulsion system. This plasma-based propulsion system uses a high-intensity electromagnetic field to heat up gas to high temperatures in millions of degrees. This temperature can't be reached using the traditional method of burning chemicals like hydrogen and oxygen.
This plasma-based propulsion system is powered by electricity harnessed from the solar power of a nuclear power source on the rocket. This reduces the weight and bulk of the engine as it no longer needs to carry a heavy amount of chemical fuels used in combustion engines.
Scientists are expecting the size of the Mars spacecraft to be equivalent to the size of the International Space Station. It will accommodate six people and will be along the scale of a nuclear submarine.
The company CEO suggests that a spacecraft to Mars would be extremely large and will be able to carry lots of heavy equipment. The duration of the flight is also going to span months. Other options are to assemble the components of a rocket in space, but this is likely to be a challenge.
Currently, Space Launch Systems (SLS) and SpaceX Starship are a few chemical engine-based rockets that will be used for Moon and Mars missions.