Vasimr’s the nickname of the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket. The kick-ass engine looks like this:
(Right to left) This bad boy charges hydrogen from its original gaseous state to a plasma state. It confines it (tanks it) with magnet coils that produce a magnetic field that the charged hydrogen particles can’t travel through, and then heats those charged hydrogen particles with a nuclear reactor to millions of degrees in order to produce ridiculous propulsion… 123,000 miles/hour of pure speed. That’s from JFK to LAX in under a minute. (no need for leg room!)
Franklin Chang Diaz is the creator of the Vasimir. He’s also a retired NASA astronaut, physicist, and current entrepreneur, who has a company, called Ad Astra Rocket Company, with up to $100 mil in funding right now to build his 30+ year dream rocket. In three years, the first one is scheduled to travel to the International Space Station more or less as a proof-of-concept. Currently, his company has an extraterrestrial space service that repairs and refuels satellites in our orbital detritus field.
Diaz dreams of going to Mars, and with his rocket design it will only take 39 days one-way… Thats a 87 day round-trip with a week vacation on the Red Planet and two stopovers on the moon.
About a year ago, Pres. Obama said that “By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth.” He’s really into the whole privatization of space thing, and I’ll vote him in again for that. Let’s do it!