Nuclear-powered plasma drives carrying men to Mars – the fact we can say that as a future instead of fiction makes us so happy!  Tests on a new kind of ion drive establish that’s already applicable to orbital operations, and could be the breakthrough that blasts us to the next planet.

We’ve already covered first stage tests of the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR), but now – as electro-rocket scientists at Ad Astra power through second stage testing – people are already looking much further afield.  VASIMR‘s upgrade over previous plasma engines mean it could have a permanent place in orbit, moving satellites and stations around for free by making use of solar power (tests on the International Space Station are scheduled for 2013).

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