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UK Space Agency, Rolls-Royce join forces aiming to halve travel time to Mars

Rolls-Royce and the UK Space Agency are working together on a project which could halve the time of space travel to Mars.

Mars. Source: Associated Press

The aerospace company is hoping its nuclear-powered engines could help astronauts make it to Mars in three to four months, which is twice as fast as the most powerful chemical engines, according to The Guardian.

Using nuclear power in space was "a game-changing concept that could unlock future deep-space missions that take us to Mars and beyond", UK Space Agency chief executive Dr Graham Turnock said.

"This study will help us understand the exciting potential of atomic-powered spacecraft, and whether this nascent technology could help us travel further and faster through space than ever before."

Meanwhile, Britain's science minister, Amanda Solloway, reckons nuclear power could help create jobs and "presents transformative possibilities for space exploration".

It comes after US scientists first tested nuclear space craft technology in the 1950s and 1960s. However, the programme, which was carried out in Nevada, was canned in 1971.