To the Moon on Nukes (Op/Ed) Technology Review

To go to Mars or back to the moon with slow, low-powered chemical rocket systems is asking for trouble. The best a chemical rocket can do is get up to speed (burning up all its propellant in the process) and then drift to its destination, like a car coasting down the highway with its engine off. What’s needed are space drives that will provide a constant velocity. A fission rocket is a simple and safe system that uses a nuclear reactor to heat up a liquid such as hydrogen to create thrust. Unfortunately, “nuclear” and “fission” have been dirty words in this country for the last three decades. Despite the fact that nuclear propulsion is the best and safest way to fly major missions beyond Earth orbit, NASA stopped its development back in 1972 to put nearly every penny it had into the development of the shuttle. That was a terrible decision. At that point we had successfully tested nuclear rockets in the open air in Nevada, engines that could be operated with high thrusts for long durations