"Because in Cyberspace, no one can hear you scream."
Thursday, May 05, 2005
"Are we there yet?" Everyone has faced this exasperating question from impatient companions on a long road trip. Imagine if the trip lasted six months. One way...
But an exciting NASA-funded research project could send astronauts racing to Mars up to six times faster. The solution -- proposed by Dr. Robert Winglee of the University of Washington -- sounds like science fiction. A spacecraft rides a beam of plasma, which is electrified and magnetized gas, all the way to Mars and back. The roundtrip journey could be wrapped up in about 90 days using Winglee's Magnetized Beam Plasma Propulsion system, dubbed Magbeam.
It seems that this system functions sort of like an "umbrella" with the wind pushing against it's surface. Basically the craft would form a magnetic field which the beam would hit upon, thus propelling the craft via force. This would not only save time travel towards Mars (and perhaps Jupiter and Saturn) but would also reduce the amount of radiation that is exposed to astronauts (which can be quite dangerous whether on the Lunar surface or on Mars).
Any trip beyond Earth orbit will involve radiation threats not faced by residents of the International Space Station, which sits inside the planet's magnetic field.
A 2-1/2-year trip to Mars, including six months of travel time each way, would expose an astronaut to nearly the lifetime limit of radiation allowed under NASA guidelines.
NASA and other industries are working on the necessary technologies in order to protect our astronauts in space as well once they arrive on the ground (Mars that is). As more technology is developed, NASA may eventually decide to take a "leap of faith" and pursue a Martian landing. But before any of these attempts can be pursued, a Lunar base has to be established first (since it is a lot closer to Earth and would be easier to deal and prevent future crisis that happen on the surface).
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By Darnell Clayton â¢ 1:23 PM â¢ Email Post â¢ â¢
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