Although much research is being conducted on advanced propulsion technologies capable of supporting human interplanetary travel, much of this research is focused upon concepts that, while offering significant performance improvements over present systems, have fundamental scientific issues that must be resolved before they can be seriously considered. For example, fusion and antimatter are both appealing as a propulsion option for manned Mars missions but, in the case of fusion, scientists are still a long way from demonstrating a device that has energy gains sufficient for commercial power. Equally, antimatter’s high density makes it attractive to mission designers but the high costs of production make its use impractical. Although many of the issues facing these exotic propulsion options will eventually be overcome, it is unlikely these technologies will be ready for space applications by the time the first manned mission to Mars is ready to embark. For mission planners struggling with ways of protecting astronauts from deep space radiation for four months or more, this state-of-affairs is disappointing to say the least, but in the present fiscal environment it would require a prohibitive investment to resolve the issues related to the sophisticated technologies mentioned.
KeywordsPropulsion System International Space Station Rocket Engine Artificial Gravity Manned Mission
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