Huntsville scientists will be firing atoms into atoms on Redstone Arsenal this summer as they try to develop a small, lightweight pulsed nuclear fusion power system.
“If this works,” said Dr. Jason Cassibry, an associate professor of engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, “we could reach Mars in six-to-eight weeks instead of six-to-eight months.”
Cassibry is talking about the project's ultimate goal. Building a fusion engine will take much longer than a summer. But cutting the travel time to the Red Planet would solve many of the journey's problems. It would reduce the strain of weightlessness on astronaut's bodies — they're only allowed to spend about six months on the International Space Station now — and it would reduce the food and water they need to take on the trip, just to name a few.
And if Cassibry and his team are right, the fuel needed for a Mars journey could be measured in pounds, not tons. The team working on the fusion power system includes UAH, Boeing and NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. They are set up at the Astrophysics Laboratory on Redstone Arsenal.