Science Fiction Dictionary
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

 

Nuclear Rockets To Fly In Space!

Robert Heinlein gave a good description of the tried-and-true old-fashioned method of getting from planet to planet in his 1961 novel Stranger in a Strange Land:

At that time, only eight Terran years after the founding of the first human colony on Luna, any interplanetary trip made by humans necessarily had to be made in weary free-fail orbits, doubly tangent semi-ellipses--from Terra to Mars, two hundred fifty-eight days, the same for the return journey, plus four hundred fifty-five days waiting at Mars while the two planets crawled slowly back into relative positions which would permit shaping the doubly-tangent orbit-a total of almost three Earth years.

Isn't there some way that a spaceship could just, well, go from planet to planet without this tedious waiting around? You'd need a better propulsion system, though.

NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced Wednesday Lockheed Martin of Littleton, Colorado, as the prime contractor for the design, build, and testing of NASA and DARPA’s nuclear-powered rocket demonstration, in collaboration with other industry partners.

The Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program will test a nuclear-powered rocket in space as soon as 2027.

"Working with DARPA and companies across the commercial space industry will enable us to accelerate the technology development we need to send humans to Mars," said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy. "This demonstration will be a crucial step in meeting our Moon to Mars objectives for crew transportation into deep space."

NASA and DARPA partnered on the DRACO program to advance development of nuclear thermal rocket technology, supporting both agencies' goals. For NASA, nuclear propulsion is one of the primary capabilities on the roadmap for crewed missions to Mars.

A nuclear-powered rocket would allow for a shorter, faster trip to the Red Planet, reducing the mission's complexity and risk for the crew. This type of rocket can be more than twice as efficient as conventional chemical rockets, meaning it requires significantly less propellant and could carry more equipment for scientific goals. A nuclear-powered rocket also could provide more power for instruments and communications systems.

That would be great! Heinlein contrasts the old-fashioned way with what he called the Lyle Drive in that same novel:

The Federation Ship Champion, manned by an all-male crew of eighteen experienced spacemen and carrying more than that number of male pioneers, made the crossing under Lyle Drive in only nineteen days. The Champion landed just south of Lacus Soli, as Captain van Tromp intended to search for the Envoy.

For those science fiction fans who are also scientifiction fans, an earlier description of this notion can be found in The First Martian (1932) by Eando Binder:

The inconceivable distance to be traversed, the enormous energy required to transport a heavy machine from planet to planet, and the all-powerful force of gravity, seemed insurmountable objects to even the most broadminded and optimistic thinkers. Feeble attempts were made even in 1931 to leave this speck of the universe and soar to other worlds, but constant failures dulled the ardor of those who wished to connect our world with the others which acknowledge the same central sun... Although the fatalities far exceeded these probable successes, the hope of interplanetary travel was still uppermost in our minds. We know now, that our failure can be attributed to the unfortunate lack of radioactive elements, and not to the lack of ingenuity or inventiveness. It was only too true. as Professor Billings stated in 1945, that the only type of engine which could possibly transport a heavy machine from our earth to some planet, would have to be the atomic-energy engine, which, with a minimum of fuel and the very necessary radioactive element, could develop an unlimited amount of energy.


(The First Martian by Eando Binder)

He even drew plans of the basic principles of such an engine, estimated the amount of radioactive material needed, and worked out the propulsion of the ship.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 7/21/2023)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

NASA Wants Self-Driving Or Remote-Controlled Vehicles For Lunar Astronauts
'THE autobus turned silently down the wide street of Hydropole. Robot-guided, insulated from noise and cold...'

Orbital Mechanics, The Liftoff, The Turnover, The Retrograde Burn
'...the huge vessel had spun, with a sickening lurch, through a complete half-circle, the instant the power was reversed.' - EE 'Doc' Smith, 1928.

Can A Human Land A SpaceX Rocket On Its Tail?
'If she starts to roll sideways — blooey! The underjets only hold you up when they’re pointing down, you know.' - Stanley G. Weinbaum, 1936.

First Ever Proof Of Water On Asteroids
'Yes, strangely enough there was still sufficient water beneath the surface of Vesta.' - Raymond Z. Gallun, 1951.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction Timeline
1600-1899
1900-1939
1940's   1950's
1960's   1970's
1980's   1990's
2000's   2010's

Current News

Vast Apartment Living Will Get Even More Vast
'What is your population', I asked. 'About eighty millions.'

NASA Wants Self-Driving Or Remote-Controlled Vehicles For Lunar Astronauts
'THE autobus turned silently down the wide street of Hydropole. Robot-guided, insulated from noise and cold...'

Elon Musk Says Robotaxis Will Be Ready This August, 2024
'The car had no steering wheel, and no one drove!'

Moonwalkers AI-Controlled Electric Shoes
Now that's power walking that Hugo Gernsback would have approved.

Steve Jobs: 'Capture The Next Aristotle - With AI'
'It was disturbing to think of the Flatline as a construct...'

No Tips! Robotic Food Delivery In Phoenix
'...he rewired the delivery robot so that it would serve him midnight snacks.'

Electric Catamaran 'Explorer Eco 40m' Has 'Solar Skin'
'On went the electric-yacht faster and still faster.'

Orbital Mechanics, The Liftoff, The Turnover, The Retrograde Burn
'...the huge vessel had spun, with a sickening lurch, through a complete half-circle, the instant the power was reversed.'

Harvest Power From Tears And Blinking With Smart Contact Lens
'...he realized that it was not quite a clear lens. Speckles of colored brightness swirled and gathered in it.'

Europa Clipper Plate Carries A Special Message
'...a universal cryptogram — yet it is one which can be interpreted by any intelligent creature on any planet in the Solar System!'

Micro-Robots Are Smallest, Fully Functional
'With a whir, the Scarab shot from the concealing shadows of the corner where it had hidden itself.'

AI Enhances Images Your Brain Sees
'I could have sworn the psychomat showed pictures almost as sharp and detailed as reality itself'

Illustrating Classic Heinlein With AI
'Stasis, cold sleep, hibernation, hypothermia, reduced metabolism, call it what you will - the logistics-medicine research teams had found a way to stack people like cordwood and use them when needed.'

Deflector Plasma Screen For Drones ala Star Wars
'If the enemy persists in attacking or even intensifies their power, the density of the plasma in space will suddenly increase, causing it to reflect most of the incoming energy like a mirror.'

DIY Robotic Hand Made After Loss Of Fingers
'I made them... with the fine work of the watchmaker...'

Cheap Drunk Driver Detection From UofM
"Look, I can drive... Start, darn it!"

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.