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Jun 02 2015

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Yeah, but how?

NASA Chief Wants to Cut Mars Travel Time in Half.

In statements made during a visit to the Aerojet Rocketdyne plant here last Thursday (May 28), Bolden stressed that he’d like to slash the travel time required to send astronauts to Mars.

“Right now it’s about an eight-month mission; we’d like to cut that in half,” Bolden told reporters after speaking to Aerojet Rocketdyne workers for 30 minutes or so.

The article starts off with Solar Electric Propulsion, which I definitely don’t think will half the Mars travel time — or we are at least decades away from such an system. Then it talks about nuclear propulsion ala Orion or NERVA, which I think is more doable than SEP, and would have the added bonus of causing hippy heads to explode.

The best take away from the article is this, though:

“We don’t build rocket engines; we depend on our industry partners. ” Bolden said. “My job is to try and keep things stable for them, to let them know that we are committed to in-space propulsion.”

Bolden said that he wanted to put more money into these advanced space-only systems, which could potentially be “game changers” — and not just for delivering cargo to Mars.

“You’ve got to be specific,” Bolden said. “If I say I want game-changing in-space propulsion, everyone will go back to [the idea of] moving cargo. I want industry to focus on getting peopleto move really fast. I think we can do far better than we are doing today, but we’ve got to show our commitment by putting some money into it.”

This is exactly the right approach, and kudos to Charlie Bolden for embracing it. Government should provide the stable, fair regulatory environment that encourages innovation and competition among businesses. I’m sensing some NASA challenges in the future that may incentivize this push for faster human space flight.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2015/06/02/yeah-but-how/

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