Every generation, children look to the stars and prognosticate about the future: How long until we break through to the next great thing? Will I be around to see it? Can I do anything to create it? Luckily for those dreamers, the future is nearly here, and they will be delightfully pleased as to where it is going.
In development is the perfection of nuclear propulsion technology, with the intention of being used for space exploration, and, intriguingly, travel. There are currently several organizations looking into this possible breakthrough in science that could lead to monumental space missions. NASA, Icarus Interstellar and the Center for Space Nuclear Research (CSNR) are all making strides toward this goal.
NASA, after defunding the considerably consistent and remarkably effective NERVA program in the 1970s, is taking another look at thermonuclear engines with much more than just a curious eye. They have formed a subagency called the Nuclear Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (NCPS) to progress on a design for a 25,000-pound class thermonuclear rocket system. The advantage the project has is that the technology of today is advanced enough that core temperatures and thrust-to-weight ratios of the takeoff, and space flight, will be significantly increased and properly controlled. The research and development of this project is expected to be completed within a 10- to 12-year period.
Icarus Interstellar and CSNR have partnered to achieve the goal of making interstellar flight an accessible reality by the year 2100. With the plans in place, corporations have been promoting their hopes with widespread articles, and a “Starship Congress” in Dallas last August. They seek similar technology that NASA is developing. The product of their efforts will likely be a nuclear fusion rocket. With this kind of technology, a trip to Mars would be accomplished in as short as a month.
Some look to rush the future, as well. Dennis Tito, an engineer and multimillionaire, known for funding his own expeditions to space, is determined to send a couple to Mars and back (orbital expedition only) in 2018. It is a very ambitious endeavor.
Today’s generation can be a part of this, for the science industry is growing across the country, including the nuclear and engineering foundations here in Buffalo. Dare to dream big, peers. We’re going to make it there, and more. These advancements, coupled with discoveries of life-supporting sources, may soon lead mankind to foreign settlements on the final frontier.
John H. Coudriet is a sophomore at Amherst High School.