Radioactive Powered Martian Hoppers

Radioactive Powered Martian HopperScientists are examining the feasibility of constructing hopping vehicles powered by radioactive material to more effectively explore the rugged surface of Mars.

According to, one concept floated by NASA engineers envisions a solar-powered vehicle capable of splitting carbon dioxide into oxygen and carbon monoxide, which it could then burn as fuel in conventional rockets. 
Chinese researchers proposed a similar paradigm that would use electricity generated from batteries to suck in and heat carbon dioxide. However, a French team adopted a different approach by suggesting that future exploratory missions could be powered by magnesium powder, albeit for a limited number of jumps, or hops. Meanwhile, British scientists opined that radioactive isotopes should be employed to help squeeze gas into thrusters and heat it up for propulsion.

“Radioisotope power sources have been launched as part of spacecraft numerous times,” explained Hugo Williams, an aerospace engineer at the University of Leicester in England.

“A hopper would draw on these experiences and design standards and would be subject to an extensive test program to demonstrate compliance with safety requirements.” “[And] because the vehicle can collect propellant in-situ from the atmosphere, it has the potential to have a very long life, and therefore visit many sites of interest.”



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Posted by on November 20, 2010. Filed under Breakthroughs. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

One Response to Radioactive Powered Martian Hoppers

  1. It’s fascinating to see how different teams of scientists around the world have different approaches. perhaps this is a more successful strategy than a single, collaborative approach. Maybe once they’ve sorted out travel on Mars, they could turn their attention to the Earth!

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