from the please-don't-bring-carrie-ann-moss dept.
Sallust writes "Flightglobal has an interesting article about the testing of a new electrically powered plasma engine called the Vasimir. It's being developed by former astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz and promises to greatly reduce the time and fuel required for interplanetary journeys. According to the article: 'The Vasimir involves the injection of a gas such as hydrogen into an engine that turns it into a plasma. That plasma is then energised further using radio signals as it flows through the engine, a process controlled by electromagnetic waves from superconducting magnets. Accelerated and heated through this process the plasma is focused and directed as exhaust by a magnetic nozzle. Vasimir is many times more efficient than conventional chemical rockets and far less fuel is needed.' The developers are finalising an agreement with NASA to fit a scaled-down version of the engine to the ISS to conduct operational tests. There is also a concept video on YouTube suggesting a journey time for a manned craft to Mars on the order of 60-70 days."
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary
saftey deserve neither liberty not saftey."
-- Benjamin Franklin, 1759