Mars In 90 Days

A new means of propelling spacecraft being developed at the University of Washington could dramatically cut the time needed for astronauts to travel to and from Mars, and could make humans a permanent fixture in space.
In fact, with magnetized-beam plasma propulsion, or mag-beam, quick trips to distant parts of the solar system could become routine, said Robert Winglee, a UW Earth and space sciences professor who is leading the project.

Currently, using conventional technology and adjusting for the orbits of both the Earth and Mars around the sun, it would take astronauts about 2.5 years to travel to Mars, conduct their scientific mission and return.

“We’re trying to get to Mars and back in 90 days,” Winglee said. “Our philosophy is that, if it’s going to take two-and-a-half years, the chances of a successful mission are pretty low.”

Mag-beam is one of 12 proposals that this month began receiving support from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Institute for Advanced Concepts. Each gets $75,000 for a six-month study to validate the concept and identify challenges in developing it. Projects that make it through that phase are eligible for as much as $400,000 more over two years.

Under the mag-beam concept, a space-based station would generate a stream of magnetized ions that would interact with a magnetic sail on a spacecraft and propel it through the solar system at high speeds that increase with the size of the plasma beam.

Winglee estimates that a control nozzle 32 meters wide would generate a plasma beam capable of propelling a spacecraft at 11.7 kilometers per second. That translates to more than 26,000 miles an hour or more than 625,000 miles a day.

Mars is an average of 48 million miles from Earth, though the distance can vary greatly depending on where the two planets are in their orbits around the sun. At that distance, a spacecraft traveling 625,000 miles a day would take more than 76 days to get to the red planet. But Winglee is working on ways to devise even greater speeds so the round trip could be accomplished in three months.

But to make such high speeds practical, another plasma unit must be stationed on a platform at the other end of the trip to apply brakes to the spacecraft.

“Rather than a spacecraft having to carry these big powerful propulsion units, you can have much smaller payloads,” he said.

Winglee envisions units being placed around the solar system by missions already planned by NASA. One could be used as an integral part of a research mission to Jupiter, for instance, and then left in orbit there when the mission is completed. Units placed farther out in the solar system would use nuclear power to create the ionized plasma; those closer to the sun would be able to use electricity generated by solar panels.

The mag-beam concept grew out of an earlier effort Winglee led to develop a system called mini-magnetospheric plasma propulsion. In that system, a plasma bubble would be created around a spacecraft and sail on the solar wind. The mag-beam concept removes reliance on the solar wind, replacing it with a plasma beam that can be controlled for strength and direction.

A mag-beam test mission could be possible within five years if financial support remains consistent, he said. The project will be among the topics during the sixth annual NASA Advanced Concepts Institute meeting Tuesday and Wednesday at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Seattle. The meeting is free and open to the public.

Winglee acknowledges that it would take an initial investment of billions of dollars to place stations around the solar system. But once they are in place, their power sources should allow them to generate plasma indefinitely.

The system ultimately would reduce spacecraft costs, since individual craft would no longer have to carry their own propulsion systems. They would get up to speed quickly with a strong push from a plasma station, then coast at high speed until they reach their destination, where they would be slowed by another plasma station.

“This would facilitate a permanent human presence in space,” Winglee said. “That’s what we are trying to get to.”


Now how would I get one of those on my car :confused:

At first I did wonder what you’ve been up to with Mars bars, and why it would take you 90days to eat one :amstupid:


OK, think I can see a slight design flaw.

This system will get you skimming along at 26,000Mph . . . . How the hell do you stop ?

This idea first surfaced in the 1950’s. It resurfaces every ten years or so in one form or another. By the way, the escape velocity of Earth is 26,000 Miles per hour.

The answer is you spend 2.5 years going to mars to build another unit…
Hmmm, does seem to be a problem huh. :confused:
But to make such high speeds practical, another plasma unit must be stationed on a platform at the other end of the trip to apply brakes to the spacecraft.

The purpose of having a plasma unit is so you don’t need to bring all of your fuel with you. I think if you had to carry a plasma unit to Mars you will have eliminated your advantage of using it.

Equals & opposite forces newtons 3rd law? for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

The Text quotes a space station in space… ok were sending a beam that applies a force
to a solar sail something has to give…move…budge while anouther remains static and still

So by my thinking… spacestation will need some form of thrusters itself to stop it being
puched backwards while it try’s to push the Mars craft forwards…?

The only force applied to the space station is that of the plasma beam leaving the emitter. This force would be samll. The reason the force is because it’s using a solar sail increasing the overal force because of the great area. So we really have two systems that have the 3rd law being applied to, that of the space station/beam and the space-craft/beam.

try this analogy: when you jump up in the air, you might move say half a meter max, but the earth might move in the other direction a few fractions of a nanometer; the effect is negligb le :slight_smile: <–someone spell that right for me lol. Ta.

Indeed MC, the comparable masses between the two are of such different magnitudes then the effect on the transmitting station would be neglible.

Yes but your a small object pushing away from a huge static object
and space station is not going to be earth sized.

As its stands the ISS needs boosters to counteract earths pull so anything used is going to be relativly deepspace.

** What were saying is that we have a spacestation emitting a beam concentrated beam for 45days or so… its going to move, the beam in effect like thrust from a jet engine.

We already have Nasa Ion drive crafts zooming around space at stupid speeds
under there own power chasing comets and astroids. what’s the differnce between these and a craft emitting a beam for the purpose of pushing anouther object ?

hmm yes PMM, thats very true actually…the station will have to have some sort of counter thrust to stop it falling back into the earth or whatever over an extended period of thrust…hm or mabye they could site the beam emitter equipment on the moon, in which case my origanal therory applies :smiley: …dont ask me what they do tho when the earth gets in the way.
/Armchair Astro-Physicist Mode

edit: spelt physicist wrong didnt i. shaming. and as for grammar and punctuation…

Moon revolves around earth… moon revolves on its own as do all planets and associated satellites they would need alot of ground stations to maintain a beam presence on a craft
as there is only going to be an x hours window where the beam could be on or off and pointing in the right direction.

plus if this beam is good enough to make a solar sail zoom though space what effects could it have on anything else floating out there for an extended period of time?

While its good theory on paper I feel the rest of it is lacking when talking in respect of
spacestations plus at what point does the platform at the other end apply the breaks?
and would that be a spacestation or a groundbased? a spacestation applying the break
would maybe need more thrust to stop it decending a gound station would need good
timing in the x window of opportunity to slow it down.