Nuclear technology is a bit controversial, considering that most people associate it with the Manhattan Project and Hiroshima. It definitely has some seriously powerful chemistry behind it, which is why this company wants to use nuclear power to blast people to Mars and back. BWXT, a company focused nuclear power, teamed up with NASA to design a new rocket that will get humans to mars using nuclear thermal propulsion reactors. As part of the contract, NASA will help BWXT with the reactor’s design, fuel and core fabrication, engine test program development, and finding a test launch location. BWXT says there are a number of advantages with using nuclear technology over chemical-based designs, including higher efficiency and great power density, which makes for a lighter propulsion system. NASA projects up to a 50% reduction in space travel time. It’ll also make it safer for the crew as it lessens the amount of cosmic radiation exposure. BWXT has been around since the 1800s, and has a colorful history —for example, it helped construct the first nuclear powered submarine. NASA awarded BWXT $18.8 million back in 2017 to develop this nuclear propulsion technology. Work will continue through 2019, but could potentially be extended.
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