In its latest video blog – NASA 360 – the space agency describes a spacecraft which is currently being developed and would rely on a technology known to experts as “photonic propulsion” which would allow spaceships to explore space at 30 per cent of the speed of light.
Photonic propulsion would theoretically work by using photons – which are particles of light – to propel spacecraft at extremely fast speeds.
The potential spacecraft, which NASA admits is still in its infancy, would be able to reach such pace as when the particles of light that it emits are reflected against an object, it would give the spacecraft speed and momentum, gradually getting faster and faster.
NASA scientists Phil Lubin said: “There are recent advances that take this from science fiction to science reality.
“There is no known reason why we can not do this.”
However, for any aspiring astronauts hoping to be one of the first to explore space at speeds which have never been reached by humanity before, you’re probably out of luck.
A spacecraft with the potential to reach such speeds would need be designed with weight in mind, which is why Lubin and co are proposing making the ship wafer thin meaning that humans would be too heavy, but would be perfect for robots.
The technology would not be limited by trips to Mars, but also to other star systems in the far reaches of the Universe which have not been explored, or even seen, yet.
He writes in a paper: “Electromagnetic acceleration is only limited by the speed of light while chemical systems are limited to the energy of chemical processes.
“The human factor of exploring the nearest stars and exoplanets would be a profound voyage for humanity, one whose non-scientific implications would be enormous.
”It is time to begin this inevitable journey beyond our home.”