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NASA predicts it would take about 500 days for humans to reach the Red Planet, but Canadian engineers say a laser-based system could cut that journey to just 45 days.

The US space agency is planning to send a crew to the Red Planet in the middle of the 2030s, around the same time China also plans to land humans on Mars

Engineers from McGill University, in Montreal, Canada, say they have developed a 'laser-thermal propulsion' system, where lasers are used to heat hydrogen fuel.

 

It is directed-energy propulsion, using large lasers fired from Earth to deliver power to photovoltaic arrays on a spacecraft, that generate electricity, and in turn thrust.

The spacecraft accelerates very quickly while near Earth, then races towards Mars over the next month, releasing the main vehicle to land on the Red Planet and returning the rest of the vehicle to Earth to be recycled for the next launch.

Reaching Mars in just six weeks is something previously only thought possible using nuclear fission powered rockets, which present increased radiation risks.

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