Readers of this blog will readily agree that it is news when SpaceX and we agree on some facet of human space flight. Yesterday, we found ourselves in agreement. In a post by AvWeek, SpaceX Unveils Heavy-Lift Vehicle Plan, the quote that grabbed our attention was,
“For the transition from Earth to Mars, however, SpaceX believes nuclear thermal is the preferred propulsion means for the piloted aspect of the mission, while solar-electric power could be used to transport supplies.”
We have to confess that we support this statement 110%. NASA cannot discuss nuclear thermal power generation on human space flight missions because many in Congress would go into orbit on the thermal power of the remaining, though dying, embers of the crusty anti-Nuke movement. NASA’s early to mid 1960’s NERVA rocket technology program was by all accounts a stunning success that showed great promise for future human space flight. For SpaceX to bring this topic up is a sign of bold thinking that is out of the box. We strongly support that. Goodness knows, our human space flight program needs this sort of honest talk. And we hope by opening this topic up, a discussion can be had in a level-headed manner on the merits of going nuclear thermal for future human space flight missions.