Plasma Engine

Photo credit: Mail Online

Scientists are working on a plasma engine, known as a “Hall Thurster”, that could take humans to Mars without the need to refuel, which are currently being used by NASA to keep satellites and space probes in the right orbit. These electric rocket engines basically use a 45,000 mph stream of plasma to propel the spacecraft forward, while consuming 100-million-times less fuel than conventional chemical rockets, making it ideal for exploring Mars and beyond. One caveat: each one has a lifespan of 10,000 operation hours, but most missions will require at least 50,000 operation hours. “To prolong the lifespan of Hall thrusters, a team of researchers from the French National Center for Scientific Research are working on something known as a wall-less thruster. The wall-less thruster allows scientists to observe regions of the plasma previously hidden behind the channel walls,” Vaudolon said. Continue reading for another video and more information.

Since the 1970s, starting at MIT and then for 25 years at NASA, astronaut Franklin Chang Diaz and his team of scientists have worked to develop a faster propulsion technology for space travel. The result is the VASIMR engine, a plasma rocket that can travel 10 times faster than a chemical rocket, uses 1/10th the amount of fuel, and can transport cargo more economically than any existing space technology.