With currently available technology, a spacecraft would need as long as 18 months to fly to Mars. Even if a traveler makes it there surviving boredom and radiation poisoning, it would still be a one-way trip. The traveler will not be able to return because there won’t be any fuel left to make a return journey.
But Russian scientists are planning to use nuclear power to reach Mars in record time: only 45 days.
Russia’s national nuclear corporation, Rosatom, has announced its plan to build a nuclear engine prototype by 2025. This nuclear engine will be capable of producing enough energy to reach Mars in 45 days with enough fuel left for the return trip.
The development of a nuclear-powered spaceship will be expensive, but its deployment will be very cost effective.
Rosatom has not divulged any details regarding how its engine would work, but it is most likely to use principles of thermal fission. This means the engine will generate heat by splitting atoms and use that heat in burning hydrogen and other chemicals to power the flight.
But Russia seems to be on a tight budget. Rosatom has budgeted just 15 billion rubles…that’s around $700 million only for a 15-year long space project that began in 2010. The budget is less than one-tenth of NASA’s Space Launch System, which will cost nearly $10 billion to develop.