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[cdn-nucl-l] Nasa eyes nuclear step for rocket science
Posted on Ananova News Assistant on February 5, 2002 and at:
Nasa eyes nuclear step for rocket science
Nasa wants to develop atomic-powered rockets and nuclear reactors for
colonies on other planets.
The agency has proposed spending almost a billion dollars on the
controversial project over the next five years.
Experts say the investment will revolutionise space travel and make
conventional rockets a thing of the past.
Rockets are relatively slow and expensive because of the enormous amount
of fuel they need to escape the Earth's gravity.
It is uneconomic to carry fuel into space to power craft once they are
there, so current probes rely on the gravity of other planets - adding
years to a journey.
However nuclear power, which could fire a craft to faster and faster
speeds and then slow it down before its arrival, might halve the 17-year
journey time to Pluto.
The plan will face opposition from groups who fear a launch accident
could scatter radioactive material around the globe.
But Ed Weiler, Nasa's associate administrator for science, said: "The
number one issue would be safety."
He told engineers: "Anything that we build would have to safely survive
the worst possible scenario, which would be a rocket blowing up on the
pad. If you can't show that a system could survive that, then don't talk
Story filed: 10:10 Tuesday 5th February 2002