Ah, Mars. The Red Planet has been a subject of fascination for many over the years, where there were even plans to nuke it, while various rockets by NASA has been worked on in an effort to send mankind there – with some optimistically projecting a 30-day journey to boot. Well, it looks like NASA might have broken through a new barrier this time around with their laser propulsion system that is touted to send ships to Mars in a matter of a few days.
Researchers claim that this new breed of laser-based propulsion will do away with the need for fuel, and yet has the ability to accelerate the spacecraft up to 26% of the speed of light. That kind of speed, theoretically speaking, will be able to send a small space probe to Mars in a matter of 30 minutes, now how about that? If one were to apply a similar system to a full-sized, 100-kilogram spacecraft, then we are talking about just a few days.
At this point in time, it might take anywhere from four to eight months to arrive on Mars with existing technology. This laser system is known as photonic propulsion, where spacecraft will be equipped with giant laser sails which could be pushed along so that a powerful laser can help increase its speed. Rather than having a solitary laser that is powerful, it will fall back on a series of laser amplifiers which can sync up multiple lasers and merge them into one powerful beam.
The challenging part now? Testing and development, as such technology is already available.