NASA Mars in 39 days
Vasimr engine being developed by Texas-based Ad Astra Rocket company.YouTube Screeshot

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will be giving $10 million to a US-based company to develop a rocket that will take human beings to Mars in just 39 days. 

The Ad Astra Rocket Company (AARC) based in Webster, Texas is developing a plasma rocket that will reduce travel time and also save around $20 million every year. The company said that the engine they are developing will save thousands of gallons of rocket fuel thus reducing the cost.

"This is like no other rocket that you may have seen in the past. It is a plasma rocket. The Vasimr rocket is not used for launching things. It is used for things already there, which we call 'in space propulsion," quoted former astronaut and company President and CEO Franklin Chang-Diaz as saying.

How the VASMIR engine functions?

The company uses an electrically-charged gas – plasma – to create thrust for rocket propulsion. The plasma is heated to extreme temperatures with the help of radio waves. Then, strong magnetic fields are used to channel plasma out of the rear end of the engine, thus creating the thrust.

Here's an explanation on the science behind VASMIR engine:

Impressed with AARC's VASMIR technology, NASA agreed on a partnership and will disburse the money to the company over three years. NASA is said to consider using the propulsion system for its future expeditions to the Red Planet.

On its partnership with NASA, AARC believes that it will be beneficial for the growth of the VASMIR engine.

"The partnership [with NASA] will advance the Vasimr engine to a technology readiness level (TRL) greater than 5 – a step closer to space flight," the company said in a press release.