NUCLEAR ROCKETS: To Mars and Beyond

Nuclear Rockets: Then and Now

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy in his address to Congress outlined a new and bold space program. What many Americans remember is Kennedy's national goal of "landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth" by the end of the decade. Few Americans remember that Kennedy also outlined an effort to go beyond the moon, perhaps to Mars and beyond.

In this issue of National Security Science, we tell the story of this lesser-known effort, one in which scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory successfully built and tested a variety of nuclear rockets. Although the program officially ended in 1972, research to further improve the basic design of nuclear rockets has continued in other organizations, with current designs based on the Pewee-2 engine (1969–1972) now having specific impulses of 925 seconds.

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