NO MISSION TO MARS?….Last Friday I commented on an LA Times article that said NASA was accelerating plans to build nuclear powered spacecraft, with the intention of using the technology for a manned mission to Mars.

Today in SpaceDaily Bruce Moomaw says the Times got the story wrong:

Brian Berger reports in “Space News” that an official who has seen NASA’s Fiscal Year 2004 budget request confirms that there will be a considerable expansion of the [nuclear propulsion] program: “There is significant money in the budget for Prometheus….more than I expected to see.”

However, this ? to put it mildly ? is not the same thing as saying that NASA plans to try to develop a very large nuclear rocket engine capable of launching a manned ship to Mars within a decade.

….[NASA Administrator Sean] O’Keefe has spent the past year talking constantly about his hopes for a deep space mission using nuclear-powered propulsion within a decade or so ? while making it clear that he is talking about an unmanned, relatively small probe. NASA’s Nuclear Electric Propulsion program ? for which it included $46.5 million in its FY 2003 budget request ? would have been just such a system.

He’s got more on other developments at NASA too. Just click on the link.