Earth To Mars In 30 Minutes? Spacestations And Mooncamps Could Improve Interstellar Travel

Coburn Palmer

Ride a 2,000-ton rocket into space and a stop at the moon for some coffee before jumping onto a beam of light that will take you to Mars in 30 minutes. It sounds like science fiction, but NASA and its private space partners are already laying plans for the first interstellar travel network.

New theoretical science developed by NASA scientist Philip Lubin means a spaceship might eventually be able to travel from Earth to Mars in as little as 30 minutes.

It's called photonic propulsion and the idea would theoretically allow a spaceship to use a specially designed sail to catch light beamed from Earth and accelerate to 30 percent the speed of light.

Using this idea, a small robotic spaceship Lubin calls DE-STAR would be able to reach Mars in 30 minutes with a photonic sail, reports Inhabitat.

"A full scale DE-STAR 4 (50-70 GW) will propel a wafer scale spacecraft with a one meter laser sail to about 26 percent the speed of light in about 10 minutes, reach Mars in 30 minutes, pass Voyager 1 in less than 3 days and reach Alpha Centauri in about 15 years."

During a Congressional hearing Thursday, former NASA astronauts and administrators told committee members a gas station on the moon supplying hydrogen fuel could cut space travel costs significantly.

Astronaut Eileen Collins also floated the idea of a space hotel that would mine wealthy travelers for the money needed to expand NASA's space program, according to Gizmodo.

"There are plenty of tourists and people that have money that would love to go up in space and live on the station."

One of the problems, however, is that NASA keeps changing its focus every few years, making it impossible for scientists and engineers to keep up with established goals, former NASA administrator Mike Griffin told Congress.

"If we treated the Air Force like we do NASA, we'd have no flying aircraft. We cannot decide every few years what we want the purpose of the space program to be."

The space agency's latest budget of $19 billion is some $300 million less than expected and hamstrings NASA's attempt to reach Mars sometimes in the 2030's.

Griffin suggested to Congress a NASA trip to the moon could help the space agency work out the kinks of a longer journey to Mars.

"If God wanted us to go to Mars, he'd have given us a Moon to practice on first."

Once a lunar colony complete with a hydrogen gas station and possible space hotel was constructed, astronauts could continue to Mars at a much cheaper cost than blasting off straight from Earth.

We live in extraordinary times.

One day it might be possible to travel from Earth to Mars in 30 minutes with a stopover for coffee on the moon.

[Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA/Getty Images]