University of Washington scientists developing Mars rocket

University of Washington scientists developing Mars rocket
SEATTLE -- A team of scientists from the University of Washington could soon go where nobody's gone before.

They're developing a rocket to take astronauts to Mars, and they even have backing from NASA.

Humans have been to space and the moon, but so far the problem has been figuring out how to go farther. Dr. John Slough and his team of UW scientists are working on that.

"We can't really go anywhere in space using the chemical fuels we've used in the past," Slough said.

Slough's rocket uses fusion, which is the same technology used in hydrogen bombs. It pushes atoms together at a high rate of speed to produce explosive energy. Used correctly, it's lighter and costs less than traditional rocket fuel.

It's also much faster, capable of traveling at 64,000 miles per hour. At that speed, you could travel from Seattle to Miami in just 3 minutes. A crew of astronauts could get to Mars in 30 days, but controlling it gets tricky.

"It's forced to leave in only one direction because of the magnetic field that surrounds it," Slough said.

Slough uses magnets to compress gases and metal together into a ball of fiery fusion, then out the back where it explodes and pushes the rocket.

Testing has worked without a hitch so far.

Slough said he doesn't want to be the first person to Mars, but he's confident his rocket will be.

"The only way to develop space is to come up with a different way of getting around space," he said.

NASA wants to send a manned mission to Mars by 2030. The agency is now funding Slough's rocket design and testing.