Wang Xiaojing, the president of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), said recently that the People’s Republic of China is reseaching the best ways of creating a sustainable human presence on Mars. Wang was speaking at a Global Space Exploration conference taking place in St. Petersburg, Russia.
China has a very robust space program. Among other accomplishments, the PRC has its own rover exploring the surface of the Red Planet.It has big plans. Its robotic explorations later this decade will look for subsurface water on Mars with an eye to determining whether on-site resources could sustain a human presence.
Longer-range CALT scenarios involve an orbiting base of operations that would become a way-station for travel between the surfaces of this planet and that one. These scenarios require going beyond standard chemical propulsion: the travel times would be unrealistically long. Wang spoke instead of using nuclear electric or nuclear thermal propulsion for routine Earth-Mars transfers.
Strange New Worlds:
In a nuclear thermal system — which is under study by NASA in he U a well as a potential means of travel through deep space — a fission reactor would heat propellants that would then be accelerated through a nozzle.