Scientist eyes 39-day voyage to Mars AFP

A journey from Earth to Mars could eventually take just 39 days — cutting current travel time nearly six times — according to a rocket scientist who has the ear of the US space agency.
Franklin Chang-Diaz, a former astronaut and a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), says reaching the Red Planet could be dramatically quicker using his high-tech VASIMR rocket, now on track for liftoff after decades of development.
The Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket — to give its full name — is quick becoming a centerpiece of NASA’s future strategy as it looks to private firms to help meet the astronomical costs of space exploration.
NASA, still reeling from a political decision to cancel its Constellation program that would have returned a human to the moon by the end of the decade, has called on firms to provide new technology to power rovers or even future manned missions.
Hopes are now pinned on firms like Chang-Diaz’s Texas-based Ad Astra Rocket Company.