Scientists are gearing up for further explorations into space. But normal rockets aren’t going to cut it for missions to places like Mars and beyond. With conventional rocketry, we can make it to the red planet in five months’ time, at its closest point to Earth.
Photonic propulsion could be the answer, according to NASA scientist Philip Lubin. Lubin explains his concept in a recent video for NASA 360. He and his team were awarded a NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) grant of $100,000 to outline a roadmap and conduct initial testing. The project is dubbed: Directed Energy Propulsion for Interstellar Exploration (DEEP-IN). Using this method, an unmanned probe could make it to Mars in about three days’ time, at the red planet’s closest point. The plan calls for placing a laser in Earth’s orbit. It could serve another purpose as well, as a defense system, protecting our planet from asteroids.