(Image Credit: NASA)

Before we can build homes, fertilize the soil and raise up forests upon the red planet (not to mention bring our animal friends as well), we are going to have to figure out a way to safely get to Mars.

Despite the advances of chemical rockets, taking a 6 month journey to that crimson world would not only be unreasonable (as you would have to pack a lot of food and water for the journey) but dangerous as well due to space radiation.

In order to shorten the time span between the blue and red worlds, we may have to resort to Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket’s (aka VASIMR).

(video via Spaceports)

(Space.com) Future Mars outposts or colonies may seem more distant than ever with NASA’s exploration plans in flux, but the rocket technology that could someday propel a human mission to the red planet in as little as 40 days may already exist.

A company founded by former NASA astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz has been developing a new rocket engine that draws upon electric power and magnetic fields to channel superheated plasma out the back. That stream of plasma generates steady, efficient thrust that uses low amounts of propellant and builds up speed over time. […]

A mission trajectory study estimated that a VASIMR-powered spacecraft could reach the red planet within 40 days if it had a 200 megawatt power source. That’s 1,000 times more power than what the current VASIMR prototype will use, although Ad Astra says that VASIMR can scale up to higher power sources.

Although VASIMR could help shorten the trip towards Mars, future astronauts would probably still need a magnetic shield to protect them from the ravages of space radiation.

It may be wise for NASA to team up with Ad Astra in order to perfect this rocket, as it could enable us to not only reach and settle Mars within our life time, but perhaps Callisto, Ganymede and Saturn’s Titan as well.

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