Superfast VASIMR Rocket in Funding Limbo

Trimming travel time between Earth and various space targets is crucial to keeping human and robotic surveys of the solar system prospering into the 21st Century. Faster rockets cut back on an astronaut’s radiation intake. Being a space speedster may also reduce loss of bone and muscle mass, as well as limit circulatory changes due to prolonged microgravity exposure. One approach to express lane rocketry is tagged the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR). With VASIMR’s oomph, a 10-month one-way trek to Mars — the standard assumed for today’s chemical rockets — would be reduced to just four months. Research on this high-tech propulsion method has turned controversial, however. VASIMR supporters see dream machinery in the making. Other propulsion experts claim the engine delivers more hype than hypervelocity.