Tech UPTechnologyHow to get to Mars in 45 days

How to get to Mars in 45 days

Currently about 500 days are expected to reach the surface of the red planet. But could we get to Mars in just 45 days?


A laser-based system

A team of engineers from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, claim to have the answer, having developed a ‘laser thermal propulsion’ system, where lasers would be used to heat hydrogen fuel. Thus, lasers would be fired from Earth to power the spacecraft’s photovoltaic systems that would generate electricity and give the spacecraft the necessary thrust to reduce space travel time.

Until now , the only proposals that had solved the problem of the great distance that separates us from Mars referred to the use of rockets propelled by nuclear fission, which logically present a greater risk of radiation , among other things.

If we want to get to Mars in the next decade we need a major leap in logistics and technology, as it represents a major leap in terms of space exploration. With our current technology, we have already commented that it would take about nine months to travel from Earth to Mars and that counting on taking advantage of the moment in which both planets are at the closest points of their orbits (in opposition), something that only It happens every 26 months.


Shortening the trip to 45 days

The research, led by Emmanuel Duplay, Andrew Higgins and several researchers from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at McGill University, is published in the journal Acta Astronautica. And, although it still sounds a bit like science fiction to us, some scientists believe that it could be the future of space travel.

Higgins uses a method known as “directed energy” , such that we “drop the power source back” on this planet and “send power to the spacecraft”.

All thanks to a very powerful laser array, which would be built 10 meters wide and with a fan of smaller lasers linked together to produce a giant laser, rated at 100 megawatts. The laser would be fired from Earth and, when it reached the spacecraft, it would use its power to heat the spacecraft’s propellant like a giant steam boiler, the expert explains.


But what about radiation?

Surrounding the Earth is the magnetosphere that effectively blocks solar and cosmic radiation. The International Space Station, for example, is inside the magnetosphere and, therefore, they are safe at the level of solar and cosmic radiation. But if we get out of it, everything changes.

Experts state that reducing a mission from 9 months to 45 days would drastically reduce the radiation exposure of astronauts, so minimizing the danger to humans on a trip to Mars would be one of the main benefits of this project.

The problem is that many of these technologies are still in their infancy and untested in the real world, raising questions about their viability by 2035. The first humans likely won’t reach Mars using laser thermal propulsion technology. “However, as more humans make the journey to maintain a colony in the long term, we will need propulsion systems that get us there faster, if only to avoid radiation risks,” concludes Emmanuel Duplay, leader of the work. Maybe around 2040.

Referencia: Emmanuel Duplay et al, Design of a rapid transit to Mars mission using laser-thermal propulsion, Acta Astronautica (2021). DOI: 10.1016/j.actaastro.2021.11.032


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