NASA officials say President Bush may use his State of the Union speech to push for final development of a nuclear-powered rocket. Such untested technology could triple the speed of space travel, enabling astronauts to reach Mars in two months and allow faster exploration of the outer solar system.
NASA is frustrated by the speed (18,000 m.p.h.) of chemical-based rockets and the limits of solar power to run experiments. If the potential dangers of using a reactor rocket in space can be minimized, then such technology could hasten the number of new discoveries and keep alive the US space program's frontier spirit.