By Carina Storrs
Posted 10.14.2009 at 2:54 pm 2 Comments
Six Europeans recently wrapped up 105 days in an isolation chamber with no TV, no showers, and lots of precooked food, to test the stresses of a journey to Mars. Real Marstronauts might not have to suffer through all that. A new ion engine, which shoots charged particles to create thrust, could get them to the Red Planet in just 39 days.
Rockets burn for mere minutes. This engine runs for years, sending probes to Neptune at 10,000 miles an hour
By Michael Moyer
Posted 03.15.2006 at 3:00 am 1 Comment
NASA's Ion Engine
1. Charge the Fuel
Xenon is an inert gas, seemingly useless for rocketry. Before it´s used as fuel, the engine must convert it into an electrically charged gas, also called a plasma. An electron emitter fires electrons at the xenon gas. When an electron hits a xenon atom, it strips off an additional electron from the atom´s shell to create a positively charged xenon ion.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.