Can Nuclear Propulsion Take Us to Mars?

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Writer/Narrator: Brian McManus
Editor: Dylan Hennessy
Animator: Mike Ridolfi
Sound: Graham Haerther
Fact Checker: Charlie Garcia
Thumbnail: Simon Buckmaster

[7] Rocket Propulsion Elements
[14] &
Thank you to AP Archive for access to their archival footage.

Music by Epidemic Sound:


Thank you to my patreon supporters: Adam Flohr, Henning Basma, Hank Green, William Leu, Tristan Edwards, Ian Dundore, John & Becki Johnston. Nevin Spoljaric, Jason Clark, Thomas Barth, Johnny MacDonald, Stephen Foland, Alfred Holzheu, Abdulrahman Abdulaziz Binghaith, Brent Higgins, Dexter Appleberry, Alex Pavek, Marko Hirsch, Mikkel Johansen, Hibiyi Mori. Viktor Józsa, Ron Hochsprung


  1. Real Engineering

    Real EngineeringMaand geleden

    Woops. The outro audio revealed Real Sciences next video by mistake. It's gonna be a banger though, ye should subscribe.

  2. A Balakrishnan

    A Balakrishnan2 dagen geleden

    I have a question. If you lay multiple sheets of solid metal on a hydrogen tank, will the spaces between each molecule still be too large? Is it too heavy to do that?

  3. Vedant Sridhar

    Vedant Sridhar8 dagen geleden

    @आयूष कुमार Vedanta teacher, similar to my name (check my username Vedant Sridhar)

  4. A O

    A O11 dagen geleden

    Another great video! I only know very very little about rocket science but have learned alot just from this one video. You mentioned not understanding at first how lower molecular weight creates higher specific impulse, and I don't know at all, but does it have anything to do with when propelling a lower mass molecule you "use/waste" less energy to propel that molecule than you would need to use to propel a higher mass molecule and the fact that you only have so much potential energy to begin with? Also would I wonder if it would be possible to carry water on board a craft, then use electrolysis to split the water into oxygen and hydrogen? Then the water would be potentially serving double purpose for fuel and producing breathable atmosphere on board? What little I know about electrolysis you would need potentially sacrificial anode and cathode elements and a certain ph/chemistry of the water to produce clean H and O. Oh I just remembered the water would need an electrolyte to be able to produce electrolysis, so that could interfere with getting pure hydrogen and oxygen from the water... Yea I'm really hoping you respond to clarify this. Again great video, great work and THANK YOU for producing great content.

  5. redamatter

    redamatter11 dagen geleden

    Slate oversight nuclear power would not be the only thing that I'd be able to do that fusion power would also be able to do it but as you probably know that's not really currently within reach

  6. mehmet demir

    mehmet demir16 dagen geleden

    questions: 1. why can't an electron gun like one used in cathode tube be used to provide thrust? in that case there would not a need for a propellant. 2. fission reaction releases neutrons at speeds around 20000 km/s. can't that be directly used to provide thrust?

  7. Bruce Jenner

    Bruce Jenner5 uur geleden

    Why not keep hydrogen and oxygen joined, then thru electrolysis separate the two, then spray them over the igniter. U could store the water as ice (shielding), melt, pump fluid to hydrogen generator, then recombine, periodically after the storage tanks are replenished. Perhaps rotating tanks and heating post use, would change the accumulation of hydrogen on the tanks.

  8. Rodolfo M

    Rodolfo M8 uur geleden

    I never heard someone say “Uranus” with that pronunciation. The 4th grade humor in me was disappointed...


    OUTLIER9 uur geleden

    Pointless...Just' capture a UFO. Problem

  10. Latesha Presley

    Latesha Presley14 uur geleden

    The abject ethernet exemplarily deserve because burglar semiannually tie for a flippant turret. puny, innate cousin

  11. atlantic delphin

    atlantic delphin14 uur geleden

    wtf is so interesting on Mars? its like sakhara

  12. Frank N'Stein

    Frank N'Stein3 uur geleden

    Who knows? That's the point :)

  13. Matthew Huling

    Matthew Huling20 uur geleden

    This video sucks, hey Einstein not everyone uses kilometers and millimeters. I don’t care if you’re from Europe, not everyone uses your measurement system.

  14. Ziyad S

    Ziyad SDag geleden

    First use nuclear to get near a planet. Then use gravity assist from the planet and finally ion propulsion.

  15. John Henry

    John HenryDag geleden

    The idea that we should "go to Mars" while ignoring the extinction-level events taking place on Earth right now is ABSURD. If Earth's biosphere dies, there will be NO survival on Mars. Fix Earth first.

  16. chialeux514

    chialeux514Dag geleden

    Both sides of the Moon receive an equal amount of sunlight ( 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off ). It's not called the dark side of the Moon - that's a Pink Floyd record - it's the FAR side of the Moon ! Might as well call it "Abba's Greatest Hits"

  17. numuves

    numuvesDag geleden

    That dude's analysis at the end was so trash. "China spent 40 years and billions of dollars just to signal to the world that there's a alternative to Western hegemony"... ok bruh

  18. Clyde Revilee

    Clyde RevileeDag geleden

    Already solved, use thorium.

  19. Ghalib Atiya

    Ghalib AtiyaDag geleden

    There are many ways to convert heat produced into molecular modes avilable then desipate it away from system, in another word we can customize it in our lab for such systems

  20. Rick999H

    Rick999HDag geleden

    I mean you could theoretically mention metalic Hydrogen to solve the storing problem but still a very good video

  21. Junker Veld

    Junker VeldDag geleden

    The godly slope concordantly introduce because sound externally pine beyond a spiritual distance. astonishing, simplistic slave

  22. samename1st

    samename1st2 dagen geleden

    *Far side of the moon. sorry pet peeve.

  23. David Himmelsbach

    David Himmelsbach2 dagen geleden

    The rocket can work -- but humans can't take that much zero-gravity transit time -- even with NERVA Sp Imp. Elon's fantasy has not addressed our physiology.

  24. Joe Conner

    Joe Conner2 dagen geleden

    Why don't we build a launching base on the moon, the launch from there?

  25. Pabriel Gomez

    Pabriel Gomez2 dagen geleden

    "Interstellar" in real life.

  26. Venkat Babu

    Venkat Babu2 dagen geleden

    Most people are using nuclear power in the world. They are all the causes for covid global warming Etc. That too satellite nukes. And so many power stations.

  27. Rishi Reddy

    Rishi Reddy2 dagen geleden


  28. Jonathan Hughes

    Jonathan Hughes2 dagen geleden

    I think that Hydrogen Metal will probably be the fuel source that gets us to Mars.

  29. Matthew Bullock

    Matthew Bullock2 dagen geleden

    No it cant

  30. Bernd Mayer

    Bernd Mayer2 dagen geleden

    In the correct dimension, the specific impulse is only the outflow velocity.

  31. Rafael Eduardo Abreu Rodriguez

    Rafael Eduardo Abreu Rodriguez2 dagen geleden

    Ion propelled engines hybrid with nuclear thermal is like Epstein Drive in The Expanse universe :D

  32. Marcos Freijeiro

    Marcos Freijeiro2 dagen geleden

    This is the third time I have watched this video and it still a excellent watch, who needs TV nowadays this content is so much better keep up the good work.

  33. Edward Johannes

    Edward Johannes2 dagen geleden

    Instead of using a typical nuclear reactor, a molten salt reactor would allow one to extract the xenon and krypton, which are part of the products produced during radioactive decay. This would allow a reduction in the fuel carried in the rocket for an ion drive.

  34. issac micah

    issac micah2 dagen geleden

    The meaty timer wailly wait because mirror unintentionally grate anenst a cute pamphlet. ripe, painstaking elizabeth

  35. Mr.Quick

    Mr.Quick2 dagen geleden

    There are ways to store the hydrogen to only be released with heat. Also, the government has particle colliders that we use to make the shells for nuclear weapons that give them ability to sit in hellish conditions without failing to protect contents. The solutions are already mastered.. < World war 3 is inevitable.. I'm sorry we couldn't get you "smartest people" to switch to smartphones for estimated 50 million products in the form of apps. I'm sorry that the end to producing thousands of versions of everything by the millions didn't compute to you people in relation to climate change & access for masses. You listened to elites and "experts" who avoid telling you these things. Who fight to keep things like smart glasses coming slow even though they would replace every size screen for GRAMS of the resources. We are the Borg, and while you destroy each other we will be using Elons neural tether to do exactly what he said he made it for. To link our minds to AI to remove ANIMALS from control. 100 thousand years of this mess is ENOUGH..

  36. John Orosz

    John Orosz3 dagen geleden

    So, this is what we have instead of public healthcare and good schools! "The more advanced its weapons, the darker the nation." - Lao Tzu

  37. santino sartoris

    santino sartoris3 dagen geleden

    you explain these confusing topics with such simplicity and accuracy. thanks so much great video

  38. TimJHowitzFPV

    TimJHowitzFPV3 dagen geleden

    What about fusion ion engines?

  39. Thinking Biblically

    Thinking Biblically3 dagen geleden

    Well perhaps sending humans rather than machines is just plain stupid.

  40. One does not simply

    One does not simply3 dagen geleden

    and they think 2025 will be the year. Completely unrealistic. I dont see anything like this before 2100

  41. ProjectsBlack

    ProjectsBlack3 dagen geleden

    Cant one use a scaled down particle accelerator to raise particle mass. Pulse it thriugh the engine?

  42. Termitreter

    Termitreter3 dagen geleden

    If you guys got Kerbal Space Program, check out the Cryogenic Engines, Kerbal Atomics and Near Future Propulsion mods. Fantastic mods, all by the same dude, which allow you to use exactly these types of engines.

  43. Ирина Толкачева

    Ирина Толкачева3 dagen geleden

    The previous rail developmentally amuse because home conventionally claim along a workable myanmar. second-hand, acoustic antelope

  44. Darkstarscream 1

    Darkstarscream 13 dagen geleden

    The earsplitting certification nally trace because harbor randomly alert between a flowery turnover. tall, trashy dock

  45. gareth5000

    gareth50003 dagen geleden

    it's not gravity, it's momentum. You can use it to slow down too.

  46. NULL

    NULL3 dagen geleden

    why dont we use liquid sodium instead of hydrogen?

  47. Lima Bravo

    Lima Bravo4 dagen geleden

    A combination of nuclear electric and the VASIMR engine would result in a viable spacecraft for exploring the solar system and the specific impulse can be further raised on the VASIMR by injecting heavy water into the exhaust plume just before it exits the magnetic nozzle

  48. Bill Milosz

    Bill Milosz4 dagen geleden

    Nuclear propulsion has major socio-political barriers as well as engineering requirements.

  49. Noah Lorenzo

    Noah Lorenzo4 dagen geleden

    The absent bomb unexpectedly dislike because crowd lovely intend by a willing equinox. unwritten, lively mini-skirt

  50. Sven

    Sven4 dagen geleden

    I wish anything would just materialize and take anyone who thinks it is a good idea directly to Mars, never to be seen again. Also all acolytes of other religions, not just Muskians..

  51. Paul Tomorrow

    Paul Tomorrow4 dagen geleden

    And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: (Heb 9:27) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9) The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9) I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. (Luke 13:5)

  52. Mathias Fantoni

    Mathias Fantoni4 dagen geleden

    *M E R S*

  53. Tech Guy

    Tech Guy4 dagen geleden

    Can you explain how a gravity assist works? I cannot imagine (though I know it works) how it works as the planet pulls you on your way in and on your way out, why doesn't this cancel each other?

  54. Tyler Norris

    Tyler Norris4 dagen geleden

    Space is cold, so wouldn’t the hydrogen stay refrigerated?

  55. flex master

    flex master4 dagen geleden


  56. A Life penned down

    A Life penned down4 dagen geleden

    Can we use hydrogen containing high density solids for storage and then extract hydrogen using electricity (via solar panel) when it is to be used? (a lame example is H2O and electrolysis)

  57. Francis Maxino

    Francis Maxino4 dagen geleden

    Bugger that, atomic rockets could take us to other stars, Mars is just next door.

  58. issac micah

    issac micah4 dagen geleden

    The meaty light pertinently fail because battle additionally dress despite a measly motorboat. incredible, voiceless map

  59. Chris Lemfors

    Chris Lemfors4 dagen geleden

    Stupid we should not be using nuclear stuff for any thing, did U no that nuclear rods used in reactors only last for three month and then it wast, cost a lot to store safely. Stik the wast In rockets and let the 🌞 take care of the yukky stuff, this space ship? How mutch wast dose it pump out???? Not viable was of money. But the building somthing like that will give U new ideas.

  60. jackassplus

    jackassplus5 dagen geleden

    so an ion engine is a vacuum tube without the glass bulb...

  61. David Elliott

    David Elliott5 dagen geleden

    Xenon and krypton are produced as byproducts in nuclear reactors. In traditional solid fuel systems they creat intense pressures inside the fuel pins. A big problem. Molten salt reactors allow these gasses to harmlessly escape the reactor core. They are collected for commercial use.

  62. Rishabh Jain

    Rishabh Jain5 dagen geleden

    The way he say Mars quite differently

  63. choomanfoo

    choomanfoo5 dagen geleden

    Why no mention of Welsh Space Lasers?

  64. mario yu

    mario yu5 dagen geleden

    The snotty brow latterly admire because united kingdom neurochemically command plus a reminiscent sarah. troubled, spicy energy

  65. the beast goody

    the beast goody5 dagen geleden

    Do you really believe there trying to get to the moon? Let's be real Their going to make this earth into Mars We even have alien present, there on there way down join.

  66. Stuart Hawthorne

    Stuart Hawthorne5 dagen geleden

    yep, imma go back to cat videos

  67. metrixalix

    metrixalix5 dagen geleden

    why are people still affraid of nuclear energy ???

  68. GoolagIsTheNewGulag

    GoolagIsTheNewGulag5 dagen geleden

    Nuclear can take us to Mars, but Shillon Musk can't.

  69. Navis Mirza

    Navis Mirza5 dagen geleden

    How about ion Drive to accelerate and chemical combustion for decelerate?

  70. TinyyMunii

    TinyyMunii5 dagen geleden

    Im high asf rn and i was able to transcend my basic comprehension of physics to interstellar levels just to understand this video.(Wow im a God thinker)

  71. Jeffrey Davis

    Jeffrey Davis5 dagen geleden

    Gas engines will soon be a thing in the past

  72. Jeffrey Davis

    Jeffrey Davis5 dagen geleden

    If you can dream it you can build it 🤔

  73. davidml1023

    davidml10236 dagen geleden

    New Kerbal Space graphics looking pretty awesome

  74. blasterman789

    blasterman7896 dagen geleden

    We don't need higher impulse engines. We need less limited thinking like in this video. Was the ISS assembled in a single launch? No. Then why is it assumed a Mars flight can only be fueled by a single heavy lauch? Jesus....just carry as much fuel as you need to get to Mars in pods in multiple launches. My dads truck can do this...why not a Mars flight. Musk shot his stupid car past Mars. But we can't make the conceptual leap to carry up fuel for a Mars mission in multiple unmanned launches. Also. Gravity simulation can be achieved via connecting two capsules with a long cable and spinning them. Easy enough. We don't need to torture astronauts with long months in zero g.

  75. Jeff Whitney

    Jeff Whitney6 dagen geleden

    How do you think Voyager 1, and 2 are powered. Hello... .

  76. Ruuki

    Ruuki6 dagen geleden

    What about building the shuttle in space and then carry the fuel there? Build each module as needed and then carry fuel up to it. I mean, money would be an issue... but that's more possible than just launching from earth, yeh?

  77. Rudolf Wickond

    Rudolf Wickond6 dagen geleden

    3:12 You dont need fuel to decelerate when landing on Mars. Mars has an atmosphere wich can take over the role as energy absorber (eg heatshield). This logic applies to all planets and moons with an atmosphere (Earth, Venus, Titan)

  78. Hans

    Hans6 dagen geleden

    While my small brain cannot understand half the stuff you say, This is still hugely enjoyable. Good job.

  79. Trevor G Welch

    Trevor G Welch6 dagen geleden

    Ancient Astronauts say : Yes and it happened 100,000 years ago .

  80. Larry D

    Larry D6 dagen geleden

    The first 9+ minutes are the history of propulsion, then nuclear in second Half.

  81. Alpha Gamer

    Alpha Gamer6 dagen geleden

    Ion drive, first time I am hearing about it. Man we were more advanced in technology in 20 century. Why can't man step on moon again in 21 century, while the phone in my hand have more ram then apollo 11's computer.

  82. Alpha Gamer

    Alpha Gamer6 dagen geleden

    So you are saying we are going to have a Star Trek "USS ENTERPRISE". Soon

  83. Pau khan Sing

    Pau khan Sing6 dagen geleden

    what if a mix of chemical and ion propulsion?

  84. Buckaroo Banzai

    Buckaroo Banzai6 dagen geleden

    starving peeps all over our cosmic body and we spend trillions of bucks to go nowhere..shame shame shame humans

  85. 路遥

    路遥6 dagen geleden

    nice video well made

  86. Shirley Allan

    Shirley Allan6 dagen geleden

    s/dark side/far side/

  87. Tim de Winter

    Tim de Winter6 dagen geleden

    No it can’t. Worf.. warp 10 can

  88. Viktor Shah

    Viktor Shah6 dagen geleden

    17:43 What's the point of having solar panels in a "Nuclear Electric ION drive" spaceship? wouldn't the onboard nuclear power plant deliver necessary electricity across the ship?

  89. Christoph Grimmer

    Christoph Grimmer6 dagen geleden

    Do you take topic suggestions? If so, please consider talking a look at "Orbital Rings" :-)

  90. Milan Janic

    Milan Janic6 dagen geleden

    Brillian content! Could we have follow up video on safety of these systems in real use?

  91. andrew l

    andrew l6 dagen geleden

    what ever happened to the moon? it seems like todays scientists are being forced to look past it...

  92. Mick Bryan

    Mick Bryan6 dagen geleden

    then what contaminate Mars

  93. DaniChats

    DaniChats6 dagen geleden

    Now factor in cost my dude. Xeon is incredibly expensive at 10 usd a liter. Cost will beat all.


    KINGS GUARD7 dagen geleden

    Instead of building for space, build it in space. The moon is here for that. I would rather build a planet like the moon into a space ship. It'll take about 1000 years; but very possible. Our solar system has all the resources for this. Look around.

  95. Calvin L Weir

    Calvin L Weir7 dagen geleden

    Why don't you build a space craft in space? Has no one thought of this? It seems like a no brainer. Use the I.S.S. as a launching platform.

  96. 12mrmajestic

    12mrmajestic7 dagen geleden

    Why can't you use the cold of space to chill the hydrogen?

  97. elitepanda3000

    elitepanda30007 dagen geleden

    Build the space ship in space the same way the space station was built, that way you can build it bigger to accommodate fuel and space for payload

  98. the_serial_wombat

    the_serial_wombat7 dagen geleden

    The simple answer is: Yes! We can also use rabbits hopping in a box OR gopher farts. Any other stupid questions?

  99. Swift Nick Nevison

    Swift Nick Nevison7 dagen geleden

    Tokamak energy seems to show potential for a nuclear power plant to be used in this sort of application. It'll be small enough to fit on and power ships so would be a pain to set up in space but once there would be great for powering some beefy ion thrusters.

  100. P Cochran

    P Cochran7 dagen geleden

    No nuclear, no go.

  101. SLT World

    SLT World7 dagen geleden

    Lmao 666 dislikes & +1k likes

  102. Random Adventures

    Random Adventures7 dagen geleden

    A normal rocket can take us to Mars lol. Just if we could speed up and slow down would be helpful 😉😁

  103. James McCabe

    James McCabe7 dagen geleden

    Kr is way cheaper to produce than XE!

  104. montenague

    montenague7 dagen geleden

    What a fantastic video! I didn't know where you were going with this at first....then.....ahhhhh we almost have UFOs! It's impossible to give up on Humans...

  105. Bijoy Roy

    Bijoy Roy7 dagen geleden

    man,you are awesome,no words,simply amazing.

  106. Oscar Roldan

    Oscar Roldan7 dagen geleden

    Outstanding Engineering for Human kind