Why have humans never been to Mars? Pretty much everyone who works in the field agrees that we humans have had the technology to get there for some time now, and it’s certainly nothing to do with the moral implications of colonizing another planet when we’re unable to look after our own.
The reason is simple and brutal. It’s because it could potentially kill whoever tried in so many varied and horrible ways that I can’t list them all here. The main problem the astronauts would face, however, would be the sheer amount of time it would take to get there. Obviously, the longer you’re in space and the farther you are from Earth, the higher the risks. A journey to Mars with the technology currently available would take up to three years. The physical and— more importantly— psychological effects of being away from Earth this long are unknown and potentially catastrophic.
This could all be about to change, however, at least if you believe the latest news from Moscow’s Keldysh Research Center. Scientist, Vladimir Koshlakov, who heads the research center, told Rossiyskaya Gazeta they are working on new engines that could reach The Red Planet in just seven months. Not only that, the turn around time needed between the rocket landing and taking-off again could be as low as 48 hours.
According the Koshlakov, the rockets would work in a similar way to a nuclear power station: they’d heat cryogenic methane to create a gas which in turn powers a turbine and creates electrical energy. This energy would then be used to power the spacecraft.
Although Kashlokov says the engineers are not planning on using this technology in their next two upcoming missions, he describes the idea of a nuclear powered rocket to Mars as “feasible in the near future.”