NASA and Nuclear Power in Space

Press Release From: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE)
Posted: Monday, October 28, 2002

After some grandiose plans and a few small-scale experiments in the 1950s and 1960s, work on nuclear-propelled rockets stalled in the United States and elsewhere. Now, Sean O'Keefe (Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and veteran space expert Robert Zubrin (President of the Mars Society) call for a thoroughly rejuvenated program of nuclear space propulsion. In the November issue of IEEE Spectrum, they argue nuclear power is essential if significant human and robotic missions are to be mounted to Mars and beyond.

In the first of the two articles, O'Keefe outlines his vision for the space agency. Pledging to solicit the views of environmental groups, he declares that nuclear energy is "the most mature technology for overcoming the combined problems of power generation and propulsion" in space.

In a companion article, Zubrin (the author of several books on space exploration), explains the physics and economics of nuclear propulsion. He also sketches out a breathtaking vision of the science missions that would be possible with nuclear-powered rockets and instruments.

Contact: Glenn Zorpette, 212 419 7580, For a faxed copy of the complete articles ("NASA's Master Plan" by Sean O'Keefe, National Aeronautics and Space Administration; "Power and Purpose in Space" by Robert Zubrin, Mars Society; IEEE Spectrum, November 2002, pp. 11-14) or to arrange an interview, contact: Nancy T. Hantman, 212 419 7561,

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