Traveling to Mars with immortal plasma rockets
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Traveling to Mars with immortal plasma rockets

January 11, 2020

To send humans to Mars, we need a revolutionary
rocket technology. This is the Saturn 5 rocket that launched astronauts to the moon. It
is the largest rocket ever built Larger than even the Statue of Liberty.
This rocket requires an enormous amount of fuel in order to launch this relatively tiny
spacecraft into orbit. And from there it requires even more fuel to get the spacecraft to
the moon. As you can see, traditional rocket technology is not very fuel efficient. So how
do we get to Mars, which is 200 times further away than the moon. The answer is
an ultra fuel-efficient technology called electric thrusters — or Plasma
rockets. By replacing the old rocket technology on this spacecraft with a modern
plasma rocket, this spacecraft can get to the moon with one-tenth this tank of fuel.
Or seen another way this tank of fuel can get you to Mars. So why haven’t we
gone to Mars yet? Well, this thruster must operate for
many years for a Mars mission. Imagine what would happen if you left your car
running for a few years. It would break and so will your plasma thruster if you run it long
enough. So what’s the solution? Make sure it doesn’t break. To do this we have to understand how a plasma thruster works. The thruster creates a plasma, which is a soup of positive
particles called ions and negative particles called electrons. These Ions are shot out
the back of the thruster, pushing your space craft forward. Simple enough, right? But what happens when this plasma gets close to the walls of the thruster? When an ion
hits the wall a piece breaks off. And if enough ions hit that the wall,
Eventually the wall will completely break. Potentially causing your thruster to explode. But what if there was an effect where the pieces that break off turn around
and go back to the wall repairing itself? Could something like this
actually happen? Turns out, yes, this effect called plasma
re-deposition can magically repair the walls of your thruster making them unbreakable. For my research I create a
plasma and smash it against different types of advanced thruster wall
materials in order to maximize this plasma re-deposition effect. So far I found
that I can double the lifetime of current thruster materials. That can make
the difference between getting to Mars and getting stuck halfway. My end goal is
to design a thruster that lasts ten times as long, making it, effectively, immortal. Such a thruster would solve the fuel inefficiency of traditional rockets and enable us to travel to Mars.
Thank you.

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