Can Nuclear Propulsion Take Us to Mars?

17 Apr 2021
1 592 885 Aufrufe

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Writer/Narrator: Brian McManus
Editor: Dylan Hennessy
Animator: Mike Ridolfi
Sound: Graham Haerther
Fact Checker: Charlie Garcia
Thumbnail: Simon Buckmaster

[7] Rocket Propulsion Elements
[14] &
Thank you to AP Archive for access to their archival footage.

Music by Epidemic Sound:


Thank you to my patreon supporters: Adam Flohr, Henning Basma, Hank Green, William Leu, Tristan Edwards, Ian Dundore, John & Becki Johnston. Nevin Spoljaric, Jason Clark, Thomas Barth, Johnny MacDonald, Stephen Foland, Alfred Holzheu, Abdulrahman Abdulaziz Binghaith, Brent Higgins, Dexter Appleberry, Alex Pavek, Marko Hirsch, Mikkel Johansen, Hibiyi Mori. Viktor Józsa, Ron Hochsprung

  • Woops. The outro audio revealed Real Sciences next video by mistake. It's gonna be a banger though, ye should subscribe.

    Real EngineeringReal EngineeringVor 28 Tage
    • @आयूष कुमार Vedanta teacher, similar to my name (check my username Vedant Sridhar)

      Vedant SridharVedant SridharVor 5 Tage
    • Another great video! I only know very very little about rocket science but have learned alot just from this one video. You mentioned not understanding at first how lower molecular weight creates higher specific impulse, and I don't know at all, but does it have anything to do with when propelling a lower mass molecule you "use/waste" less energy to propel that molecule than you would need to use to propel a higher mass molecule and the fact that you only have so much potential energy to begin with? Also would I wonder if it would be possible to carry water on board a craft, then use electrolysis to split the water into oxygen and hydrogen? Then the water would be potentially serving double purpose for fuel and producing breathable atmosphere on board? What little I know about electrolysis you would need potentially sacrificial anode and cathode elements and a certain ph/chemistry of the water to produce clean H and O. Oh I just remembered the water would need an electrolyte to be able to produce electrolysis, so that could interfere with getting pure hydrogen and oxygen from the water... Yea I'm really hoping you respond to clarify this. Again great video, great work and THANK YOU for producing great content.

      A OA OVor 8 Tage
    • Slate oversight nuclear power would not be the only thing that I'd be able to do that fusion power would also be able to do it but as you probably know that's not really currently within reach

      redamatterredamatterVor 9 Tage
    • questions: 1. why can't an electron gun like one used in cathode tube be used to provide thrust? in that case there would not a need for a propellant. 2. fission reaction releases neutrons at speeds around 20000 km/s. can't that be directly used to provide thrust?

      mehmet demirmehmet demirVor 13 Tage
    • @wisdom seeker good work,

      Solar's StorysSolar's StorysVor 16 Tage
  • This is the third time I have watched this video and it still a excellent watch, who needs TV nowadays this content is so much better keep up the good work.

    Marcos FreijeiroMarcos FreijeiroVor 51 Minute
  • Instead of using a typical nuclear reactor, a molten salt reactor would allow one to extract the xenon and krypton, which are part of the products produced during radioactive decay. This would allow a reduction in the fuel carried in the rocket for an ion drive.

    Edward JohannesEdward JohannesVor 3 Stunden
  • The meaty timer wailly wait because mirror unintentionally grate anenst a cute pamphlet. ripe, painstaking elizabeth

    issac micahissac micahVor 6 Stunden
  • There are ways to store the hydrogen to only be released with heat. Also, the government has particle colliders that we use to make the shells for nuclear weapons that give them ability to sit in hellish conditions without failing to protect contents. The solutions are already mastered.. < World war 3 is inevitable.. I'm sorry we couldn't get you "smartest people" to switch to smartphones for estimated 50 million products in the form of apps. I'm sorry that the end to producing thousands of versions of everything by the millions didn't compute to you people in relation to climate change & access for masses. You listened to elites and "experts" who avoid telling you these things. Who fight to keep things like smart glasses coming slow even though they would replace every size screen for GRAMS of the resources. We are the Borg, and while you destroy each other we will be using Elons neural tether to do exactly what he said he made it for. To link our minds to AI to remove ANIMALS from control. 100 thousand years of this mess is ENOUGH..

    Mr.QuickMr.QuickVor 6 Stunden
  • So, this is what we have instead of public healthcare and good schools! "The more advanced its weapons, the darker the nation." - Lao Tzu

    John OroszJohn OroszVor 14 Stunden
  • you explain these confusing topics with such simplicity and accuracy. thanks so much great video

    santino sartorissantino sartorisVor 17 Stunden
  • What about fusion ion engines?

    TimJHowitzFPVTimJHowitzFPVVor 19 Stunden
  • Well perhaps sending humans rather than machines is just plain stupid.

    Thinking BiblicallyThinking BiblicallyVor 20 Stunden
  • and they think 2025 will be the year. Completely unrealistic. I dont see anything like this before 2100

    One does not simplyOne does not simplyVor 23 Stunden
  • Cant one use a scaled down particle accelerator to raise particle mass. Pulse it thriugh the engine?

    ProjectsBlackProjectsBlackVor 23 Stunden
  • If you guys got Kerbal Space Program, check out the Cryogenic Engines, Kerbal Atomics and Near Future Propulsion mods. Fantastic mods, all by the same dude, which allow you to use exactly these types of engines.

    TermitreterTermitreterVor 23 Stunden
  • The previous rail developmentally amuse because home conventionally claim along a workable myanmar. second-hand, acoustic antelope

    Ирина ТолкачеваИрина ТолкачеваVor Tag
  • The earsplitting certification nally trace because harbor randomly alert between a flowery turnover. tall, trashy dock

    Darkstarscream 1Darkstarscream 1Vor Tag
  • it's not gravity, it's momentum. You can use it to slow down too.

    gareth5000gareth5000Vor Tag
  • why dont we use liquid sodium instead of hydrogen?

  • A combination of nuclear electric and the VASIMR engine would result in a viable spacecraft for exploring the solar system and the specific impulse can be further raised on the VASIMR by injecting heavy water into the exhaust plume just before it exits the magnetic nozzle

    Lima BravoLima BravoVor Tag
  • Nuclear propulsion has major socio-political barriers as well as engineering requirements.

    Bill MiloszBill MiloszVor Tag
  • The absent bomb unexpectedly dislike because crowd lovely intend by a willing equinox. unwritten, lively mini-skirt

    Noah LorenzoNoah LorenzoVor Tag
  • I wish anything would just materialize and take anyone who thinks it is a good idea directly to Mars, never to be seen again. Also all acolytes of other religions, not just Muskians..

    SvenSvenVor Tag
  • And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: (Heb 9:27) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9) The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9) I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. (Luke 13:5)

    Paul TomorrowPaul TomorrowVor Tag
  • *M E R S*

    Mathias FantoniMathias FantoniVor Tag
  • Can you explain how a gravity assist works? I cannot imagine (though I know it works) how it works as the planet pulls you on your way in and on your way out, why doesn't this cancel each other?

    Tech GuyTech GuyVor Tag
  • Space is cold, so wouldn’t the hydrogen stay refrigerated?

    Tyler NorrisTyler NorrisVor Tag
  • no

    flex masterflex masterVor Tag
  • Can we use hydrogen containing high density solids for storage and then extract hydrogen using electricity (via solar panel) when it is to be used? (a lame example is H2O and electrolysis)

    A Life penned downA Life penned downVor 2 Tage
  • Bugger that, atomic rockets could take us to other stars, Mars is just next door.

    Francis MaxinoFrancis MaxinoVor 2 Tage
  • The meaty light pertinently fail because battle additionally dress despite a measly motorboat. incredible, voiceless map

    issac micahissac micahVor 2 Tage
  • Stupid we should not be using nuclear stuff for any thing, did U no that nuclear rods used in reactors only last for three month and then it wast, cost a lot to store safely. Stik the wast In rockets and let the 🌞 take care of the yukky stuff, this space ship? How mutch wast dose it pump out???? Not viable was of money. But the building somthing like that will give U new ideas.

    Chris LemforsChris LemforsVor 2 Tage
  • so an ion engine is a vacuum tube without the glass bulb...

    jackassplusjackassplusVor 2 Tage
  • Xenon and krypton are produced as byproducts in nuclear reactors. In traditional solid fuel systems they creat intense pressures inside the fuel pins. A big problem. Molten salt reactors allow these gasses to harmlessly escape the reactor core. They are collected for commercial use.

    David ElliottDavid ElliottVor 2 Tage
  • The way he say Mars quite differently

    Rishabh JainRishabh JainVor 2 Tage
  • Why no mention of Welsh Space Lasers?

    choomanfoochoomanfooVor 2 Tage
  • The snotty brow latterly admire because united kingdom neurochemically command plus a reminiscent sarah. troubled, spicy energy

    mario yumario yuVor 2 Tage
  • Do you really believe there trying to get to the moon? Let's be real Their going to make this earth into Mars We even have alien present, there on there way down join.

    the beast goodythe beast goodyVor 2 Tage
  • yep, imma go back to cat videos

    Stuart HawthorneStuart HawthorneVor 2 Tage
  • why are people still affraid of nuclear energy ???

    metrixalixmetrixalixVor 2 Tage
  • Nuclear can take us to Mars, but Shillon Musk can't.

    GoolagIsTheNewGulagGoolagIsTheNewGulagVor 2 Tage
  • How about ion Drive to accelerate and chemical combustion for decelerate?

    Navis MirzaNavis MirzaVor 2 Tage
  • Im high asf rn and i was able to transcend my basic comprehension of physics to interstellar levels just to understand this video.(Wow im a God thinker)

    TinyyMuniiTinyyMuniiVor 3 Tage
  • Gas engines will soon be a thing in the past

    Jeffrey DavisJeffrey DavisVor 3 Tage
  • If you can dream it you can build it 🤔

    Jeffrey DavisJeffrey DavisVor 3 Tage
  • New Kerbal Space graphics looking pretty awesome

    davidml1023davidml1023Vor 3 Tage
  • We don't need higher impulse engines. We need less limited thinking like in this video. Was the ISS assembled in a single launch? No. Then why is it assumed a Mars flight can only be fueled by a single heavy lauch? Jesus....just carry as much fuel as you need to get to Mars in pods in multiple launches. My dads truck can do this...why not a Mars flight. Musk shot his stupid car past Mars. But we can't make the conceptual leap to carry up fuel for a Mars mission in multiple unmanned launches. Also. Gravity simulation can be achieved via connecting two capsules with a long cable and spinning them. Easy enough. We don't need to torture astronauts with long months in zero g.

    blasterman789blasterman789Vor 3 Tage
  • How do you think Voyager 1, and 2 are powered. Hello... .

    Jeff WhitneyJeff WhitneyVor 3 Tage
  • What about building the shuttle in space and then carry the fuel there? Build each module as needed and then carry fuel up to it. I mean, money would be an issue... but that's more possible than just launching from earth, yeh?

    RuukiRuukiVor 3 Tage
  • 3:12 You dont need fuel to decelerate when landing on Mars. Mars has an atmosphere wich can take over the role as energy absorber (eg heatshield). This logic applies to all planets and moons with an atmosphere (Earth, Venus, Titan)

    Rudolf WickondRudolf WickondVor 3 Tage
  • While my small brain cannot understand half the stuff you say, This is still hugely enjoyable. Good job.

    HansHansVor 3 Tage
  • Ancient Astronauts say : Yes and it happened 100,000 years ago .

    Trevor G WelchTrevor G WelchVor 3 Tage
  • The first 9+ minutes are the history of propulsion, then nuclear in second Half.

    Larry DLarry DVor 3 Tage
  • Ion drive, first time I am hearing about it. Man we were more advanced in technology in 20 century. Why can't man step on moon again in 21 century, while the phone in my hand have more ram then apollo 11's computer.

    Alpha GamerAlpha GamerVor 3 Tage
  • So you are saying we are going to have a Star Trek "USS ENTERPRISE". Soon

    Alpha GamerAlpha GamerVor 3 Tage
  • what if a mix of chemical and ion propulsion?

    Pau khan SingPau khan SingVor 3 Tage
  • starving peeps all over our cosmic body and we spend trillions of bucks to go nowhere..shame shame shame humans

    Buckaroo BanzaiBuckaroo BanzaiVor 3 Tage
  • nice video well made

    路遥路遥Vor 4 Tage
  • s/dark side/far side/

    Shirley AllanShirley AllanVor 4 Tage
  • No it can’t. Worf.. warp 10 can

    Tim de WinterTim de WinterVor 4 Tage
  • 17:43 What's the point of having solar panels in a "Nuclear Electric ION drive" spaceship? wouldn't the onboard nuclear power plant deliver necessary electricity across the ship?

    Viktor ShahViktor ShahVor 4 Tage
  • Do you take topic suggestions? If so, please consider talking a look at "Orbital Rings" :-)

    Christoph GrimmerChristoph GrimmerVor 4 Tage
  • Brillian content! Could we have follow up video on safety of these systems in real use?

    Milan JanicMilan JanicVor 4 Tage
  • what ever happened to the moon? it seems like todays scientists are being forced to look past it...

    andrew landrew lVor 4 Tage
  • then what contaminate Mars

    Mick BryanMick BryanVor 4 Tage
  • Now factor in cost my dude. Xeon is incredibly expensive at 10 usd a liter. Cost will beat all.

    DaniChatsDaniChatsVor 4 Tage
  • Instead of building for space, build it in space. The moon is here for that. I would rather build a planet like the moon into a space ship. It'll take about 1000 years; but very possible. Our solar system has all the resources for this. Look around.

  • Why don't you build a space craft in space? Has no one thought of this? It seems like a no brainer. Use the I.S.S. as a launching platform.

    Calvin L WeirCalvin L WeirVor 4 Tage
  • Why can't you use the cold of space to chill the hydrogen?

    12mrmajestic12mrmajesticVor 4 Tage
  • Build the space ship in space the same way the space station was built, that way you can build it bigger to accommodate fuel and space for payload

    elitepanda3000elitepanda3000Vor 4 Tage
  • The simple answer is: Yes! We can also use rabbits hopping in a box OR gopher farts. Any other stupid questions?

    the_serial_wombatthe_serial_wombatVor 4 Tage
  • Tokamak energy seems to show potential for a nuclear power plant to be used in this sort of application. It'll be small enough to fit on and power ships so would be a pain to set up in space but once there would be great for powering some beefy ion thrusters.

    Swift Nick NevisonSwift Nick NevisonVor 4 Tage
  • No nuclear, no go.

    P CochranP CochranVor 4 Tage
  • Lmao 666 dislikes & +1k likes

    SLT WorldSLT WorldVor 4 Tage
  • A normal rocket can take us to Mars lol. Just if we could speed up and slow down would be helpful 😉😁

    Random AdventuresRandom AdventuresVor 4 Tage
  • Kr is way cheaper to produce than XE!

    James McCabeJames McCabeVor 4 Tage
  • What a fantastic video! I didn't know where you were going with this at first....then.....ahhhhh we almost have UFOs! It's impossible to give up on Humans...

    montenaguemontenagueVor 4 Tage
  • man,you are awesome,no words,simply amazing.

    Bijoy RoyBijoy RoyVor 4 Tage
  • Outstanding Engineering for Human kind

    Oscar RoldanOscar RoldanVor 4 Tage
  • in regards to the helium containment problem, has titanium been considered?

    Austin-Taylor BlackburnAustin-Taylor BlackburnVor 4 Tage
  • absolute banger!

    Fire Panda Party PenguinFire Panda Party PenguinVor 4 Tage
  • At 19:29 the ship is still accelerating to Mars Literally unwatchable

    Cobus GreylingCobus GreylingVor 4 Tage
  • Isn't Xenon a byproduct of some Nuclear power schemes? Can that byproduct be reclaimed, and added to the Xenon propellant ?

    Jordan RhodeJordan RhodeVor 4 Tage
  • ---Is it hard to make ion thruster? NO You can make DC plasma in the Vacuum chamber and shoot the ions out through the biased grid in the rage of KiloVolts. ---So why everyone's not making one? BECAUSE It is extremely hard to direct the ion trajectories towards the axial direction and get that theoretical perfect specific impulse. The repulsion among ions, chaotic magnetic fields due to accelerating charges, neutralizing the propulsion chamber, and many more that I don't know yet are just the tip of the iceberg.

    Milaan PatelMilaan PatelVor 4 Tage
  • Liquid Hydrogen is obviously best for nuclear-thermal propulsion. But SpaceX is shortly to be the world leaders in dealing with liquid methane. If the reactors could be powerful and light enough; CH4 should be able to achieve nearly 600 seconds specific impulse, which isn't lousy. LH2 needs huge, heavily-insulated and actively cooled propellant tanks (for long term). The same size tanks could hold a *really* big quantity of sub-chilled methane. On that basis; using CH4 might be an excellent compromise. But then; so might anhydrous ammonia.

    Matthew BlackMatthew BlackVor 4 Tage
  • Damn

    Harsha ChoudharyHarsha ChoudharyVor 4 Tage
  • Best engine twitter , nitikxo

    BlueStarBlueStarVor 4 Tage
  • Why not use magnetic fields to travel in space? Push off the earth's, attract to others...just figure out a way to constantly monitor and shift polarity accordingly?

    compositestechbbcompositestechbbVor 4 Tage
    • I feel like doing anything relying on exhaust is antiquated and non sustainable long term.

      compositestechbbcompositestechbbVor 4 Tage
  • Just need to start building those big ships on the moon

    ZoonofskiZoonofskiVor 5 Tage
  • Just imagine aliens finding it and saying what is this trash

    F.U.Q.U NEWSF.U.Q.U NEWSVor 5 Tage
  • The Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor can solve all of the nuclear reactor in space problems

    MjolnirMarkVMjolnirMarkVVor 5 Tage
  • Q

    kezzawooddkezzawooddVor 5 Tage
  • You sound like Justin roiland LOL

    HappyShowTVHappyShowTVVor 5 Tage
  • I was in school, learning about the possibilities of these technologies over 50 years ago, before "the funding was cut"! If we could have forged ahead then? We'd now be 50+ years further down the road! Our "Crooked" Politicians were so incredibly short sighted back then. Let's hope today's current crop of "Crooks" are just a touch smarter.

    Robin JacobsRobin JacobsVor 5 Tage
  • Why don't they send the supplies ahead of time use different types of robots & autonomous drones to build structures have everything in order before any crew ever steps foot out of the craft

    Iamlamet JeslynIamlamet JeslynVor 5 Tage
  • To store hydrogen use water. Electrolyze water and you have oxygen to breath and hydrogen to exhaust. excess oxygen or CO2 could also be exhausted. Now add carbon as a solid or powder and you could make CH4 or any other hydro carbon. you have high power thrust when you want. You have coolants, you have a myriad of options.

    Jerry MontgomeryJerry MontgomeryVor 5 Tage
  • What we need is nuclear power from fusion. Well, it is here in the form of the SAFIRE GENERATOR. Almost costless electricity and therefore hydrogen from new fusion nuclear is now immediately upon us. We have recently taken a new step to advance the physic of power production by enabling chemistry of the atomic nucleus, or "nuchemy" in the newest FUSION NUCLEAR POWER technology of the SAFIRE GENERATOR. We are passing the chemistry level where we interacted with the atomic electron shells and are moving on to manipulations in this "NUCHEMY" atomic nuclear era when we interact and multiply nuclear protons. We have rediscovered the lost work of the alchemists and can make new elements with different atomic weights. This was ably demonstrated in "The Safire Project". Quanta are important. We now have enough energy in them to manipulate the atomic nucleus much more easily by creating a compartment, or what is a local region of plasma containment so reactions at this atomic nuclear level can easily take place. This is about to practically enabled a really fantastic and cheap new era of energy production for the whole of mankind. This with hydrogen, so free fuel obtained from water or atmospheric moisture anywhere in the world. This new fusion nuclear is at the industrial commercial production final development point as of now. The energy argument and other power methodologies are all now virtually irrelevant as we have new and very physically and economically powered practical and local community level fusion nuclear power. Solar roof plus Teslawall battery may be the present way to go domestically but megapack batteries and multiple storage technologies interconnected with an expanded ugly grid have a less certain requirement when you consider new any-scale community based and 24 hr reliable and self-fueling fusion nuclear in the form of the "SAFIRE GENERATOR". Learn all about it at "aureon". Learn the newer EU Theory and plasma physics at "Thunderbolts" and you will be permanently reeducated with this advanced new EU theory that will allow you to understand more about the astrophysics of our whole universe and all within.

    David GillmanDavid GillmanVor 5 Tage
  • Two words - warp drive!

    WyhopWyhopVor 5 Tage
  • This is the best video I ever watched!!!

    Tomek STomek SVor 5 Tage
  • 7:48 burning are not "controlled explosion" we can say sometimes when something burn extremely quick (like powder) and destructive "that are explosion", but this is not. Explosion of substance becomes from detonation, this is not burning, detonation is completely other, much faster process. If fuel in car engine detonate (from overpressure) engine will die.

    MetaJammMetaJammVor 5 Tage
  • Why are we still trying to send a spacecraft using only one rocket? We should build it in large chunks, in space.

    MeMad MaxMeMad MaxVor 5 Tage
  • I always see a Brilliant sponsorship coming, and I'm never disappointed to see one

    bilishu alissbilishu alissVor 5 Tage
  • Why couldn’t you store the hydrogen as water, then use electrolysis to separate the hydrogen and oxygen as needed? I don’t imagine it would take a huge portion of the reactor output to do so, and would also augment the environmental systems and potentially even provide reaction mass to RCS thrusters as well

    Josh ChaseJosh ChaseVor 5 Tage
    • should find something productive to do with thier billions.

      bilishu alissbilishu alissVor 5 Tage