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Space Transportation Science

Fusion Thrusters For Space Travel 192

Posted by Soulskill
from the trimming-parsecs-off-the-kessel-run dept.
kgeiger writes "John J. Chapman, a physicist and electronics engineer at NASA's Langley Research Center, envisions a laser-pumped fusion drive. Chapman estimates the drive can produce thrust 40 times more efficiently than existing ion engines such as those on the Dawn mission now exploring the asteroid belt."
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Fusion Thrusters For Space Travel

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  • research! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by k6mfw (1182893) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @07:02PM (#36605384)
    Alrighty so I haven't RTFA but this is the kind of stuff NASA should be doing more. Hire ambitious smart people with grand ideas, give them resources and turn 'em loose! Probably much of what they do will amount to nothing but you just never know (a great concept may become reality).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @07:04PM (#36605398)

    *LASER*-pumped *FUSION* drive... Say that out loud...

    Are we living in the future yet?

  • Re:research! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by youn (1516637) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @07:14PM (#36605484) Homepage

    I think if Nasa was only allowed to carry projects from start to finish... and not successive radical change in direction mid projects... lots more cool stuff could come out. The problem, every time a new administration comes out big buzz words are introduced to completely change the direction, forcing many times redevelopment of the wheel.

  • Re:research! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @07:43PM (#36605720)

    If only they had a more reasonable budget.

    I mean look at this. [wikipedia.org]

    1963-1968 gave them a pretty darned reasonable budget. Then, until 1987 they had CRAP. Starting from 1987 they started to get a halfhearted budget that fluctuated up and down.

    Also it's pretty depressing their underwhelming budget represents 35% of the budget for academic scientific research in the US.

  • It makes me sad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hamburgler007 (1420537) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @07:54PM (#36605834)
    When I think about how much more the US could do if we didn't squander our money on bullshit
  • by RsG (809189) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @10:48PM (#36607014)

    That's a myth.

    Thirty-forty years ago, optimistic predictions were for working fusion power plants circa the first decade of the new millennium. Realistic predictions were somewhat further away. And those optimistic predictions were made with the assumption that the intervening decades would see continual, government funded R&D into the subject (because no private enterprise is going to throw billions at something with a forty year payoff).

    The R&D funding was not received. Turns out governments don't like throwing billions at the long term anymore than businessmen do, to say nothing of the minor problem that science and engineering tend to get slashed every time there's a budget crisis (want to go back and count how many times that's happened in the past half century?) The prototypes we could have been building weren't built. Progress was slow, though thankfully not nonexistent.

    As a result, a decade after the optimists predicted the first fusion power station, we're only now building the testbed prototype. Interestingly, we're not nearly as far behind as most current pessimists like to think. Net-energy producing fusion will probably be seen as unattainable by some people right up until the point where it's attained.

    Want to know where the "fusion has been 10-20 years away fro 60 years" meme got going? Morons. Morons who don't get the idea that you can't sit around waiting for progress to happen. Morons who think that research is something that "just happens" and don't seem to realize that sometimes that vital, civilization advancing research requires a lot more money and patience than we as a culture are prepared to give. Morons who looked back at the rosy view of the future and didn't see the little disclaimer about how much work it would take to get there.

    Morons repeated this meme until it became accepted fact and a glib response, brought up every time there's a news story about fusion research. It's time to let this meme, this myth, die.

  • Re:It makes me sad (Score:4, Insightful)

    by catchblue22 (1004569) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @11:59PM (#36607418) Homepage

    When I think about how much more the US could do if we didn't squander our money on bullshit

    The obsession with lowering taxes will imply that a larger percentage of national resources are funnelled into consumption. When a nation spends more on consumer goods, it will, in my opinion lead to a reduction in projects that are national in scale and for the public good. I think we have already seen this in the reductions both in NASA's budget, and in the general research budget. Most research is now carried out by private corporations, with the main aim of short term profit. The ironic thing is that the reduction in general research will probably harm the broad economy, reducing the potential profits of these same corporations.

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