the full development of an NTR system at this time, but it believes that NASA should take steps to maintain this technology as a potential option for future decisions.


Finding on Nuclear Thermal Rocket Technology: NASA has no project for examining the fundamental issues involved in recovering the nuclear thermal rocket (NTR) technology even though the utility and the technical feasibility of the NTR have been established.


Recommendation on Nuclear Thermal Rocket Technology: The Exploration Technology Development Program should initiate a technology project to evaluate experimentally candidate nuclear thermal rocket (NTR) fuels for materials and thermal characteristics. Using these data, the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate should assess the potential benefit of using an NTR for lunar missions and should continue to assess the impact on Mars missions.

SUMMARY COMMENTS

NASA must couple the human aspects of its mission with its technology development program in order to succeed. NASA could return humans to the Moon without nuclear thermal propulsion technology, but the ability to go beyond the Apollo program would be substantially reduced. Such a reduction would call into question the rationale for exploration provided in the Vision for Space Exploration, the national space policy, and the NASA Authorization Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-155).

Adding nuclear thermal propulsion would provide NASA with a technology that would support decisions about future destinations and potentially significantly enhance the capability of NASA’s systems and vehicles. A better integration of the human systems would help to ensure the efficient completion of mission objectives by reducing barriers or obstacles to the human operation of Constellation systems.



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