Space Quote: Nukes in Space

Image (Credit): NASA’s Cassini spacecraft lifts off on Oct. 15, 1997, atop a Titan IVB rocket. (NASA)

“NASA should educate the public about why nuclear propulsion is not only something nice to have, but is a necessity if human civilization is to spread beyond the Earth on a greater scale than a few explorers. Access to the mineral and energy resources of the solar system would be a boon to all humankind and would be worth the infinitesimal risk of launching nuclear fuel into space.”

-Statement by Mark R. Whittington in an editorial in The Hill titled “Will the NASA-DARPA nuclear engine test cause environmental protests?” In his piece, Mr. Whittington discusses plans to build a nuclear-powered rocket for a Mars mission and highlights how protests surrounded the 1997 launch of the nuclear-powered Cassini probe to Saturn, with one scientist estimating that “an explosion on the launch pad could spread radioactive plutonium across Central Florida, potentially cause more than 1 million casualties…” Mr. Whittington is the author of various space exploration studies, such as Why is It So Hard to Go Back to the Moon?