For those of you who read my columns regularly, you know I love to travel. I was recently intrigued by an article about how humans will be visiting Mars in the next few decades. Although I may be past the prime candidate age for visiting, when the time comes, I will be wondering how exciting such a trip would be.
Right now, with current technology it will take three years to arrive, and come back from Mars. Broken down, that’s one year to get there, one year to hang out and wait for the Earth to be in the right spot, and one year to return.
That certainly seems like a long time and that’s why scientists are working on a new propulsion system to cut the trip down to two years. Now I’m really intrigued, as maybe I will be able to visit the red planet after all.
I did a little research into how they plan to cut the time. It seems the issue is speed. Currently they are dragging through space at an awkwardly slow pace of 10,000 km. an hour. To put it into perspective, I could leave Port Perry at 10:30 in the morning and be in India for lunch. As fast as that may seem, it is a snail’s pace when heading to Mars.
The latest innovation is a different type of engine, used once they leave the earth’s atmosphere. It will be powered by a nuclear reactor. That concept made me stop and re-evaluate my goals. I’m not sure I want to be tied to a nuclear reactor for six months. I will be the first to admit, I am not that familiar with the operation of such a device, but it seems it is very similar to the way the Bowmanville and Pickering reactors work. Of course, if Elon Musk had his way, the entire trip would take two weeks, but we may have to wait a few years for that.
I now have visions of being strapped into a seat sitting next to a massive reactor and watching the inflight movie… which, with my luck would be the miniseries, Chernobyl.