By Mark Hoffman
University of Washington researchers and scientists at a Redmond-based space-propulsion company are currently building components of a fusion-powered rocket, which could enable astronauts to travel to Earth’s neighboring planet Mars within weeks instead of months, at speeds considerably faster than feasible until now. The current travel speeds using fuel rockets make Mars travel a journey of about four years but the new fusion technology being tested by researchers at the University of Washington promises that in 30 to 90 days.
The lab tests have proven to be successful on each part of the process and the scientists are now planning to combine the sections into a one final and overall test.
“Using existing rocket fuels, it’s nearly impossible for humans to explore much beyond Earth,” said lead researcher John Slough, a UW research associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics. “We are hoping to give us a much more powerful source of energy in space that could eventually lead to making interplanetary travel commonplace.”
The team has developed a technology using a special type of plasma that will be encased in a magnetic field. When the plasma is compressed with high pressure by the magnetic field, nuclear fusion takes place.