History of Nuclear Propulsion (air- and space-craft)
Advanced propulsion technologies, including nuclear propulsion, are not new concepts for NASA. Advanced-technology
requirements for today’s missions were designed, developed and tested in NASA’s infancy. Nuclear-powered rockets, nuclear powered planes, single-stage-to-orbit vehicles, and ion propulsion systems were all proposed in the 1950s and 1960s. As time passed, and the political environment changed both in the United States and NASA, requirements changed and these programs were deleted.
In 2004, NASA was presented a new task of sending a crewed mission to Mars. This task will require technologies, such as ion propulsion, that allow long-duration flights to the Moon and Mars. This lesson will address only the implications of nuclear