Ion engine could get man to Mars in 39 days

mercurial

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A six-month space journey away, Mars often seems an almost impossible planet to reach. But engineers are developing a new engine that could turn six months to six weeks, bringing the Red Planet much, much closer than ever before.

Using the traditional fuel-burning rockets that carried humans on lunar missions, it would take a manned spacecraft six months to travel from the Earth to Mars. While you could find volunteers in spades willing to trade a year in a tin can for a glimpse of another planet, osteoporosis-inducing weightlessness and dangerous radiation render a lengthy trip unfeasible. But attention has turned to ion engines. While a combustion rocket thrusts a space shuttle through the atmosphere, then lets it coast to its destination, ion engines are able to effect a more continuous thrust:

Ion engines, on the other hand, accelerate electrically charged atoms, or ions, through an electric field, thereby pushing the spacecraft in the opposite direction. They provide much less thrust at a given moment than do chemical rockets, which means they can't break free of the Earth's gravity on their own.

But once in space, they can give a continuous push for years, like a steady breeze at the back of a sailboat, accelerating gradually until they're moving faster than chemical rockets.

Engineers at the Ad Astra are seeing promise in VASIMR, an ion engine that uses a radio frequency generator to heat charged particles and create greater thrust than other similar engines. Ad Astra plans to attach a solar-powered VASIMR engine to the International Space Station for tests, and, if they are successful, could use VASIMR periodically to thrust the ISS back into the Earth's orbit.

But, if the engine were powered by an onboard nuclear reactor, its applications could be much more profound. Using 1000 times the energy of a solar-powered VASIMR, a nuclear-powered VASIMR engine could propel a manned spacecraft to Mars in a mere 39 days. Although the technology to play a nuclear reactor on a space shuttle is still a ways off, many in astrophysics feel the project holds enormous promise. NASA has provided Ad Astra with a small stipend for VASIMR development, and NASA chief Charles Bolden had high praise for the possibility of shortened space travel:

If engines, such as VASIMR, could be developed to take people to the Red Planet in 40 days, "that puts it inside the range of what we feel comfortable of doing with humans," he told New Scientist. "Something like VASIMR – that's a game changer."

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Devill

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//Orders one of the ion engins

Awesome news. Space travel will benefit hugely if this comes to pass.
 

Geriatrix

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Wonder if they took deceleration in to account when they made those calculations.
 

AveshR

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and the effects it will have on the human body to travel at that speed...??? :erm:
 

Geriatrix

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and the effects it will have on the human body to travel at that speed...??? :erm:

Nah speed doesn't bother the human body too much(sub light of course) its the acceleration(or sudden deceleration ;) ) thats a killer. Ion engines don't accelerate very fast so all should be cool.
 

davemc

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AveshR ... acceleration and deceleration is what affects the body, not speed.
Right now you're travelling at incredible speed, away from the centre of the universe, as is our sun, around which we orbit.
Can you feel it?
 

BCO

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and the effects it will have on the human body to travel at that speed...??? :erm:

Dude, it's not like the astronauts are gonna stick their heads out the window or something.
 

mercurial

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Effect of space on Human body

1) Effect on cardiovascular system

Human beings living on Earth are affected by gravity because about two-thirds of our daily activities are standing or sitting. Because of this great amounts of body fluids such as blood pool in the lower part of the body. The human body is equipped with various mechanisms to oppose gravity to maintain sufficient blood flow to the brain.
In micro gravity environment, the quantity and the distribution of body fluid alters since it is free of the gravitational effect. This is the known as "fluid shift." Symptoms caused by fluid shift are stuffy nose, headache, and puffy face.

2) Effects on bone

Bones are systems involved in maintaining posture. The adult human body has 1,000 to 1,200 grams of calcium and 400 to 500 grams of phosphorus. However, once gravitational stress is removed, bone calcium and phosphorus are excessively excreted in urine and faeces. It is seen that 3.2% of average bone loss occurred after nearly 10 days of weightlessness. The loss of calcium in urine may produce urinary stone, which might cause severe pain, the decrease of bone density will lead to bone fracture. Therefore, countermeasures are necessary.
One countermeasure proposed to prevent bone loss is onboard exercise mainly with the treadmill and ergo meter.

3) Effects on muscle

The human body floats within the orbiting spacecraft. Therefore, astronauts can move around in spacecraft just by softly pushing against its wall. In a micro gravity environment, muscles rapidly weaken due to the lack of use.

4) Space motion sickness

A few minutes or a few hours after entering weightlessness, astronauts experience space motion sickness, which is characterized by headaches, malaise, nausea and vomiting. Sixty to seventy percent of the astronauts experience these symptoms.

5) Effect on hematologic and immunologic system

One significant alteration in the hematologic and immunologic system in micro gravity is the transformation of red blood cells, the main component of blood. Ninety percent of our normal red blood cells have a biconcave discoid shape (i.e.) a doughnut without a hole. In weightlessness, some red blood cells transform into "mulberry" or spherical shape. However, they are readily reversed even after long-term space mission.

6) Effects of space radiation

Space radiation exists in the space environment. On the Earth, the atmosphere and magnetic field provide a shield for humans, and prevent space radiation from penetrating to the Earth's surface. Due to the absence of such shielding in the space environment, astronauts are subjected to greater amounts of space radiation than they would receive on the Earth. Therefore, the space radiation may seriously affect the astronauts.


More links:

http://209.85.229.132/search?q=cach...e+travel+on+the+body&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=za

http://docs.google.com/gview?a=v&q=...fects+of+space+travel+on+the+body&hl=en&gl=za

http://docs.google.com/gview?a=v&q=...fects+of+space+travel+on+the+body&hl=en&gl=za

http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=1059
 

Pyro

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My gf has one of those engines in her Tazz.

No wonder it's so slow!

Ion propulsion doesn't provide as much force as a rocket would, but it uses significantly less fuel to do so. So instead of burning a rocket for 1 hour, it can throw ions for the entire flight.

On earth that wouldn't be as effective, as we've got a lot of friction to deal with.
 

mercurial

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Experiments Show 'Artificial Gravity' Can Prevent Muscle Loss In Space

ScienceDaily (July 23, 2009) — When the Apollo 11 crew got back from the moon, 40 years ago this week, they showed no ill effects from seven days spent in weightlessness. But as American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts began conducting longer-duration space flights, scientists noticed a disturbing trend: the longer humans stay in zero gravity, the more muscle they lose. Space travelers exposed to weightlessness for a year or more — such as those on a mission to Mars, for example — could wind up crippled on their return to Earth, unable to walk or even sit up.

Now, researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have conducted the first human experiments using a device intended to counteract this effect — a NASA centrifuge that spins a test subject with his or her feet outward 30 times a minute, creating an effect similar to standing against a force two and half times that of gravity. Working with volunteers kept in bed for three weeks to simulate zero-gravity conditions, they found that just one hour a day on the centrifuge was sufficient to restore muscle synthesis.

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Voicy

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Hook one of those up to a Zero Point Modulator and we have ourselves a road trip!
 
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