Updated 04:23 AM EDT, Thu, Oct 28, 2021

Plasma Rocket Taking Humans to Mars in 39 Days? How is This Possible?

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Man could be closer to Mars than he once thought.

Instead of a one-way travel time that lasts an average of six to eight months, humans can reach the Red Planet in 39 days, recent reports suggest.

Transportation will be carried out through the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (aka VASIMR), the Huffington Post reported. To help with development, NASA has already selected Ad Astra Rocket Company for a round of funding.

The 39-day time frame is expected under ideal conditions.

NDTV took note of Franklin Chang-Diaz's remarks, Ad Astra CEO and former astronaut, who expressed, "This is like no other rocket that you may have seen in the past. It is a plasma rocket. The VASIMR rocket is not used for launching things. It is used for things already there, which we call 'in space propulsion.'"

Ad Astra is one of the 12 companies joining NASA's Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextStep), The Daily Mail noted. As told by the outlet, NASA will provide $10 million to the company, over three years, to get the engine ready.

Aside from the Texas-based Ad Astra, two other companies are headed in NextSTEP's advanced propulsion projects. These are Aeroject Rocketdyne Inc. and MSNW LLC, both natives of Redmond, Washington.

Often thought as the "fourth state of matter," plasma is a hot, ionized gas made of approximately equal numbers of positively charged ions and negatively charged electrons. As these are electrically-charged particles, magnetic fields are thought to exhibit heavy influence.

Considering this principle, the VASIMR is expected to be guided by magnetic forces, withstanding extreme temperatures. In reference to rocket propulsion, The Daily Mail wrote, "The higher the temperature of the exhaust gases, the higher their velocity and the higher the fuel efficiency."

That being said, plasma will work as the force that thrusts the rocket out into space, channeled by strong magnetic fields.

Interestingly, the success of the VASIMR engine is thought to save "thousands of gallons of rocket fuel," NDTV cited. This translates to around $20 million savings every year.

In addition to propulsion projects, there are seven companies headed to NextSTEP's habitat projects. These include the following:

1. Bigelow Aerospace LLC of North Las Vegas, Nevada

2. The Boeing Company of Pasadena, Texas

3. Dynetics Inc. of Huntsville, Alabama

4. Hamilton Sundstrand Space Systems International of Windsor Locks, Connecticut

5. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company of Denver, Colorado

6. Orbital ATK of Dulles, Virginia

7. Orbital Technologies Corporation of Madison, Wisconsin

The rest of the projects are aimed at small satellites.

What do you think of NASA's partnerships? Are we finally closer to Mars?

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