Can Nuclear Propulsion Take Us to Mars?

Joylandi 17-Apr, 2021
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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.

    • @आयूष कुमार Vedanta teacher, similar to my name (check my username Vedant Sridhar)

    • 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.

    • 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

    • 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?

    • @wisdom seeker good work,

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

  • The Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor can solve all of the nuclear reactor in space problems

  • Q

  • You sound like Justin roiland LOL

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Two words - warp drive!

  • This is the best video I ever watched!!!

  • 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.

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

  • I always see a Brilliant sponsorship coming, and I'm never disappointed to see one

  • 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

    • should find something productive to do with thier billions.

  • There are so many things we could solve with nuclear energy. The only thing holding us back is fear and ignorance. Yes, it can be dangerous. But if you think about it, just about anything can be dangerous if one does not take the proper safety measures. Your house can catch on fire because of bad electrical wiring. Your car can have a malfunctioning brake and that could result in a fatal accident. You can even find yourself trapped in a toxic relationship because your romantic partner hid their history of psychological issues from you. Regardless, possible dangers should only be accounted for, it should not stop us entirely.

  • I might add need for..hydrogen or any propelents no aka rocket fuels....Fyi...

  • I'm not sure why such a problem.of's like there are not thinking. So many cheap affordable ways and most technology is in effects uses in other methods..atomic isn't nuclear and with the info of magnet power you fly a regular plane or other like a transport etc..all the movies and video games should have long ago gave ideas for the vehicles to use.forget rocket power and huge expensive rockets payloads...simply a rotor magnet power line car turbo dood..think man think..them nuerons blockers sure delay things...think tests we converted a kerosene jet engine to magnet power works great very powerful. Free. Clean atomic...forget about plutonium danger and thinking magnitism magnet. It'll be fast to build once you start...we all ready for a mars. Moon base.

  • Jacksepticeye is this you?

  • It is hard for me to comprehend how brilliant these people are!

  • Vger, yes.

  • or create a gyro craft that uses opposite spinning wheels to create its own gravity..

    • It is hard for me to comprehend how brilliant these people are!

  • Nice now we're going to f up space

  • I thought of this a year ago. radioactive that powers a light for a solar sail once sunlight becomes inefficent due to distence. otherwise you have have to use a spring mounted that adds to conserved momentum it would fire slowly so as not to detract from current momentum.

  • Ion drive is a badass-sounding technology name

  • PRESIDENTIAL policy 6 signed December 16 2020. Hmmmm... who was the president at that time? Oh yeah Donald J. Trump if I recall. Can't wait to get him back in 2024 and get good policies again. Who's with me?

    • @Am_Yeff first off none of those are policies. Second off did you hear, there was no quid pro quo, Russian meddling, coup, and the two impeachment scams were unsuccessful in finding any wrong doing despite a MASSIVE effort LMAO. Spend half an hour finding the facts out for yourself instead of being spoon fed what the media wants you to hear, I gaurantee you'll find it most enlightening!

    • Good policies like "Quid pro quo", "Russian meddling", "Several sexual assault accusations", "Inciting a coup", and "Being impeached"

  • there is no 'dark' side of the moon. there is however a 'far' side of the moon. just because u cant see the sun shining on the far side of the moon doesn't mean it never does.

  • Elon Musk rockets are well made, quickly tested and off to GO, but to be very clear, the engine design is nice, but with my help, I could reach about 100 km/s, but we would have to go back to the design desk in another office, to reach Mars in about 1 month, maybe 29 days. Using graphene nanotubes as insulation ,D and also for all cables around, unless we will use light speed communication instead in similar for as for the military internet. Ps. As for top technologies, why we dont uncover TR3B, Aurora and B2?

  • Elon Musk rockets are well made, quickly tested and off to GO, but to be very clear, the engine design is nice, but with my help, I could reach about 100 km/s, but we would have to go back to the design desk in another office, to reach Mars in about 1 month, maybe 29 days. Using graphene nanotubes as insulation ,D and also for all cables around, unless we will use light speed communication instead in similar for as for the military internet.

  • The other option with nuclear propulsion is just increase the temperature, the quotes 800 to 900 seconds is a result of the research on the 50s.

  • Going to mars is a colossal waste. It benefits no one except startrek nerds.There are people on earth who dont know were thier next meal is coming from.These space cadets should find something productive to do with thier billions.

    • When the meteor comes, us on mars will be laughing our asses off

  • Genuine question. Would a Carbon nanotube kind of mesh be able to stop hydrogen molecules from permeating through the material? or is the carbon nano structure still too large and allows hydrogen to just go through?

  • Gota say that your equations need some work

  • "Dark Side of the Moon"? Say "Far side of the moon" 50 times as punishment!

    • Insular humans

    • the moon does not have a "dark side" from any perspective other than that of a time critical phase perspective from the Earth.

  • Why not just store hydrogen as water.. your nuclear reactor can use water to generate electricity to separate the hydrogen from the water and I feel like extra oxygen isn’t a bad thing in space. Have the oxygen surrounding the tank of hydrogen so if any leaks out of the container it’ll bond with the oxygen and make water. Idk I’m sure there’s flaws to this. I’m just taking a stab at it with little knowledge of the whole deal.

  • @2:34 you mention "the dark side of the moon", as if it's synonymous with the far side of the moon, which it is not, the far side is basking in sunlight every two weeks, just like the near side.

  • It is hard for me to comprehend how brilliant these people are!

  • MERS

  • I think humans will live in space this century but,unfortunately,I will not be alive to see it. Mars will be first then who knows where we will go.

    • NASA's needs. Not requiring a fission reactor to produce energy. More like a nuclear battery.

  • Great video, but cough*themoonhasnodarkside*cough....

  • id rather hear trump say china than hear this guy says mars lol

  • It is not "Mers", it is "Mars", with an A.

  • Fluids or qed but mostly chemistry :/

  • Can ion drive thrusters be used to make flying cars?

  • There is a third nuclear option. Actually exploding atomic bombs as a means of propulsion.

  • You have bigger problems to deal with on earth

  • You forgot to list the songs in the description...

  • I feel like I just wandered into an Intro to Interplanetary Space Domination course.

  • Great video 👍

  • Who would want to live on Mars? It doesn't have an atmosphere thick enough to burn up meteorite showers, doesn't have enough gravity to maintain bone health. The low atmospheric pressure, lack of oxygen and low temperature will require wearing a suit outside, which will get banged up, stinky and tiresome to wear. There's no magnetosphere to protect from radiation, no plants or animals to eat and no arable soil to farm. And worst of all, it's *FREEZING all the time.* Isn't that romantic?

  • A very clear way of explaining such a complex subject thank you. So how far are we away from testing a nuke hybrid drive in space, and what successful ways are there in existence to safely store hydrogen long term? Could the environment of space make this easier, or could it be made up there out of water (producing oxygen also). I guess a moon base is way overdue!

  • Fire in rocket engine is not a controlled explosion

  • There is a better way but we still need to find it..for now I feel we are still taking chances because human mechanical tech still fails and thats dangerous in the middle of space travel lol 😉..not just that but also the elements of space pose a danger with all that fuel on board..I mean just a small peanut sized object flying through space at a massive velocity could penertrate a fuel tank and BOOM..end of that expedition deffo..were still too slow I recon lol 👀 😆

  • Water could be easier to store than hydrogen. Then nuclear power could separate the two. Hydrogen and oxygen are very useful in space. Water is also useful for protection from solar and cosmic radiation. And oxygen could be used as a fuel. The water could come from the moon. So a moon base would be useful. Hopefully, we could have a generation 4 reactor. Possibly with molten salt coolant. But sodium cooling may be better for use in space. Molten Salt Reactors on Earth could also produce Plutonium that is suitable for NASA's needs. Not requiring a fission reactor to produce energy. More like a nuclear battery.

  • 14 days to Mars via Nuclear Salt Water Rocket (Angry Astronaut) Nuclear salt Water Rocket (Scott Manley)

  • I feel silly for not knowing ion thrusters are real. That blue glow is so eerie, but so beautiful

  • so we assemble nuclear ion drive ships in space

  • With an ion engine, electrons get removed from xenon atoms to ionize them and the xenon atoms then get projected out the engine at extremely high speed. But what happens with all those electrons that get removed from the xenon atoms? Does the vessel end up accumulating an insane static charge?

  • Okay this is great and all but why isn't it getting done? I understand the disdain for nuclear plants but everyone should be in agreement for nuclear powered spaceships in space. Especially to convert to electricity to fuel ion propulsion.


  • Good video.

  • Can the hydrogen be stored in water molecules?

    • Interesting. Could you split the molecules fast enough to supply the fuel?

  • Ain't that the nerv nuclear engine in ksp

  • I'm hoping we figure out fusion soon enough that we can seriously consider fusion rockets. In particular, the ability to simply direct fusion exhaust out a nozzle is very attractive in my opinion. If we are lucky, we may do this in my lifetime.

  • *Me acting like I perfectly understand what's going on but I'm actually a bumbling idiot*

    • just play KSP, you'd be surprised how much you can learn from it (although fuel storage isn't a real problem in the game)...

    • monke

  • Nuclear engine Mars lander was designed by NASA in 1962 and was planned to land on Mars in 1972. This is VERY old news.

  • Good work !

  • This makes me wonder if H3 (Hydrogen 3) will actually be something used as a propellant... Edit: Wouldn’t using heat sinks for the nuclear based engines be more useful? I mean don’t dump them into space obviously but I’m saying have it run on a few or more heat sinks at one time then put them outside for them to cool down while the other heat sinks are doing it’s job and when both have reached the satisfied temperatures (one set is hot and the other is cold) swap them again using an automated system?

  • Humans are direct descendants of the race that lived on Mars. Its the only thing that makes sense. Even today mankind cannot replicate building feats such as the pyramids. The only explanation is that superior technology once existed on Earth. Where else could it have come from? Mars used to be like Earth. Humans destroyed its atmosphere and colonized Earth. Mars was abandoned. Now Earth is being destroyed, and humans fantasize about going to Mars. Ironic isn't it.

    • @slammerjax

    • @henry hernandeez so not true.

    • cap we can trace out dna from other animal on earth it is a good theory but it is no true but life could have came from a asteroid that hit earth

  • The question is not can, it is should, and there is a reason why no one have ever tried to fire a nuclear rocket.

    • @Ken Jackson that sounds dangerous, not as dangerous as a nuclear rocket, but dangerous enough that it got decomissioned

    • Though there was a nuclear powered aircraft at one time.

  • When are we going to Mars

    • 2030 but nasa is testing the rocket that is going to bring us there this year

  • can u pls follow up on the analysis of hydrogen as fuel for automobiles...???

  • 👨‍👦

  • Railgun

  • This video is very fun and easy to learn, unless if you look at the comment seeing Delusional people thinking its all fake and its all CGI.

  • if you could only know the Truth about zero Point Energy/travel, but the mil. Ind. Comp. already tackled that long ago.

  • Talk to David Adair, the rocket he made the fastest rocket ever took off at 8 thousand miles in 4 seconds and I believe him because he was rocket builder since young kid >>>>> >>>

  • Thinking about the space junk that has gathered and has to be tracked mostly around Earth since the 1950s, what is the effect on space vehicles and space stations encountering ion streams or other particles with high velocities that might be found in planetary or solar orbits and where will those particles go? Are they, at 40 km/s at any kind of escape velocity? Will they tend to reenter Earth's, the moon and Mars' orbits?

  • Thumbnail shows a ship from the Martian film the Hermes. Was a good futuristic ship that NASA might build one day.

  • Just a quick reminder folks, there's absolutely no escape from planet earth. Just Take good care of this beautiful world full of abundance of everything us humans and all other lives require to thrive. It's a waste of money trying to escape because it's forbidden by mother nature.

  • i got an idea for a video... talk about memristors! those are some nanoelectronics elements that have very interesting properties and aplications

  • Make a video about a sky hook

  • Future Technology 👈

  • In the nuclear powered ion drive, cannot you use xeon as reactor coolant, so that it carries heat away from the reactor into the ion drive chamber?

  • What about Liquid Fluoride Thorium Molten Salt Reactors? They gonna use something in space that they will not allow us to use on earth?

  • Why do we want to leave a perfectly good planet? It just seems dumb.

  • What's the song that was playing around 12:00 - 12:20

  • Em drive were debuked by showing the warping in the system calculating its trust value. Making a new zero when warped by heat so it looked like propusion where there were non, they used another type of heat to show the error.

  • The need for metallic hydrogen is real, really close to reality.

  • and yet we're STILL under the delusion we can colonize it's a backyard camp trip....not gonna happen with our current tech

  • xenon is a rare earth element only 1 part in 20,000,000 part in earth's atmosphere. krypton is far more common found in 1 part in 1,000,000 in earth's atmosphere.

  • What say you, Elon? Elon: I on it.

  • Pretty amazing for a species that just figured out flight in 1903.

  • Can you do a video on how the hoover dam was created. Idea came from after seeing a cringe tiktok'er trying to explain how it was impossible to build but does not bother to pay attention to the engineering of it.

  • What's the song at 9:57?

  • Hope not. So destructive animals like human should stay on one planet which already destroyed. Let s look at planet Earth from global view wars, famine, primitive monetary system causes poverty... and do you wanna fly on another planets? Seriously? I would say first get evolved then travel. Do not spread stupidity over the universe.

  • Wonderful content!

  • "Using gravity assists to visit our closest neighbors makes little sense". Uhm, perhaps you meant to say "RELYING upon gravity assists to visit our closest neighbors sucks". There is nothing inherently wrong with using gravity assists when they are available.

  • isn’t space colder then the hydrogen so what’s the challenge keeping it in cryogenic temperature ?

  • Hopefully we won’t need Nuclear Power innovation will ding a Better Way