Florian Neukart is an Assistant Professor with the Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science (LIACS) at Leiden University and a Board Member of the Swiss quantum technology developer Terra Quantum AG. The preprint of his paper recently appeared online and is being reviewed for publication in Elsevier.

According to Neukart, technologies that can surmount conventional chemical propulsion (CCP) are paramount in the present era of space exploration. In particular, these technologies must offer greater energy efficiency, thrust, and capability for long-duration missions.

This is especially true for missions to Mars and other locations beyond the Earth-Moon system, which pose serious risks to astronaut health, safety, and well-being. Even when Earth and Mars are at their closest every 26 months (a Mars Opposition), it can take up to 9 months to make a one-way transit to the planet. Combined with surface operations that could last up to a year and the nine-month return trip, missions to Mars could last up to 900 days! During this time, astronauts will be exposed to elevated levels of cosmic and solar radiation, not to mention the toll of long periods spent in microgravity will have on their bodies.

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