Flying the flag on trips to Mars
It’s possible that one of the most unexpected places on earth â€“ or in space â€“ to find an Irish flag. But there it is, the tricolour, on a prototype plasma rocket being developed by a US company for express trips to Mars.
Why the national emblem? It is an acknowledgement of research being carried out in Ireland on cooling systems to stop the rocket melting under its operational temperatures of up to one million degrees.
The Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (or Vasimr) aims to cut travel time between earth and Mars from a possible two years down to around six weeks each way, explains DaithÃ de Faoite, a PhD candidate at UCD. He spent six months in Costa Rica as an intern with the Ad Astra Rocket Company, helping them test the first stage of a new-generation rocket that could make long-distance space travel more efficient.
During his stint in Costa Rica, de Faoite helped kit out the rocketâ€™s test bed with sensors and measured heat loss from the 4m first stage prototype as it fired.
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