Stylized illustration of Mars
Feature

Competing visions

By Jon Kelvey

April 2024

NASA and DARPA think nuclear thermal propulsion could be the best way to get humans to Mars. Elon Musk is keeping his faith in the brute force of burning hydrocarbons. Who is right? It turns out either could work, but there are a lot of “ifs” for both strategies. Jon Kelvey has the analysis.

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Graphic of thermal protection tiles
Engineering Notebook

Cutting the cost of thermal protection

By Keith Button

April 2024

For every spacecraft that NASA and commercial space companies want to launch to low-Earth orbit and beyond, thousands of tiles must be manufactured to ensure these vehicles land more or less unscathed from the searing temperatures of plowing into the atmosphere. A Colorado company may have devised a way to make tiles more quickly and more cheaply. Keith Button learned about the upcoming laboratory tests that could be a turning point.

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