For human beings to travel safely toMarsIn the future, it will be important to make the trip as quickly as possible, thereby reducing the crew’s exposure to theweightlessnessand thespace radiation. With current chemical rockets, a round trip to the red planet would last about two years, and to return would have to wait for the correct planetary alignment. Now, the Texas company Ad Astra Rocket ensures that making this trip at a higher speed will be possible with itsVASIMR plasma motor(acronym forVariable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasm Motor), which would reduce thejourney from Earth to Marsjust39 days.
And it is not the only application proposed for thisnew propulsion system. Physicist Franklin Chang-Díaz, NASA astronaut and inventor of VASIMR, has reached an agreement to test the engine in theInternational Space Station (ISS)in 2013. VASIMR would be in charge of periodically returning the ISS to its orbit, as it loses around 100 meters of altitude per day due to gravitation and the solar wind. Rockets that consume 7.5 tons of fuel each year are currently used for these maneuvers. With VASIMR theconsumption would be reduced to 0.3 tonnes, which would save millions of dollars annually for the space agency.
Last June, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) selected VASIMR on its list ofTop 10 Emerging Aerospace Technologies2009.