If you think gas prices on Earth are out of this world, wait until you see the cost of flying to another planet.

Regardless of whether you use chemical rockets, nuclear rockets or even VASIMR (the latter which is still a long shot), traveling throughout our sol system will set you back billions of dollars.

While such prices are currently only affordable for wealthy nations, a new type of rocket could make traveling throughout the star system affordable for the affluent masses.

The space coach concept vehicle is water-driven and water-centric, starting with its solar-powered electrothermal engines. These engines would super-heat water, and the resulting steam would then be vented out of a nozzle, producing the necessary amount of thrust.

Electrothermal engines are very efficient, and they’re well-suited for sustained, low-thrust travel, researchers said. This mode of propulsion would do the lion’s share of the work, pushing the space coach from Earth orbit to Mars.

Smaller chemical rockets could be called into service from time to time when a rapid change in velocity is needed, McConnell said. (Space.com)

Brian McConnell (the mind behind this idea) envisions passengers residing within Bigelow Aerospace like modules, with water surrounding the walls of the space craft in order to shield passengers from deadly radiation.

While the concept itself is potentially feasible, the craft’s range would be limited by the power of the Sun (which means that this craft probably will not be traveling beyond Jupiter in the semi-distant future).

Although craft’s design only exists on paper (or rather upon a computer), McConnell might be able to convert his dream into a reality if he can convince a billionaire to fund the project (or perhaps a space hungry country).

Image Credit: Robert Becker

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