HOW IT WORKS: Nuclear Propulsion

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Prince Westerburg : "And remember Johnny, anyone complaining about radioactivity in the atmosphere is a communist."

MJ Horn : This documentary is quite old but the science is still correct and no one is currently planning for nuclear propulsion within the Earth's atmosphere. Regarding your comments; I am not surprised but still saddened by the derisive and mocking tone of the majority. Many responses appear to come from a place of knee jerk emotionality without any actual knowledge to base an opinion upon. The general level of education of the average American has gradually become abysmal over the last 30 years; without regard to political leanings. It is amazing to me many do not even know that most of our planetary robots have been run by nuclear power since the sixties (of course different from this specific type.) Do not forget the vast majority of our submarine fleet and all of our super carriers are also nuclear powered. You may not be aware; you are constantly surrounded by various forms of radiation. without the use of radiation in every aspect of your lives we would still be living in the stone age. Of course this video is quite dated, but there is active research and various types of propulsion in space using various types of radiation. We certainly must do this research because other countries are doing the same research as well. There is no way that we can colonize or explore the solar system with chemical power (which dose pollute the atmosphere to depart Earth's gravity. The vast majority of the proposed propulsion systems based on nuclear power are meant to be used only in space; where the radiation produced by nuclear powered space ship would be a drop in the bucket. Those of you that enjoy science fiction books and TV shows such as Star Trek will note that none of their spaceships are powered by chemical rockets. They all use some form of nuclear, fusion or antimatter power. The assumption in all the shows is that they have learned to master the safe use those technologies.

Garth Leach : That was America, there was nothing that we couldn't achieve. I was 13 when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon now look at us, dammed shame.

Camaro Rick : I feel like Im getting radiation just watching this

rouge gaming28 : Jackass flats lol.

Howard Barnett : NERVA was shut down because it wasn't a breeder reactor design, and the U.S. couldn't use the design to produce weapons grade nuclear material. It could be built and flown within 5 years, but no one has the political willpower to finance it and explain to the AEC and the American public why this needs to be done. Modern materials and techniques would cut costs and make the design even more feasible than shown here. It's how we will get to other planets, and finally colonize the Moon. I'm still pissed NERVA was cancelled, and that I'm not living on the Moon today as a direct result of that idiocy.

JeanLafitte : 10:10: "These rods can be operated by remote control". Like manually turning the control rods in a nuclear reactor is an option.

FATBINK : This is old. I wonder if anyone is still doing research on this.

Marc Dezaire : This is old 1960s stuff, when everything with the word ''atomic'' was almost magic. Nuclear propulsion has indeed several advantages, but it's has one huge disadvantage -- the exhaust gases are radioactive. You really really don't want to use them inside the Earth's atmosphere. I've read several old (illustrated) books of that age about the future of space exploration , and most of them assumed nuclear rockets are the way to go. I could be wrong , at the moment the only thing nuclear in space propulsion are small reactors providing power for spacecraft that are too far away from the sun to use solar panels

Tom Noyb : Jackass Flats remains one of the most contaminated U.S. sites 40yrs later. Merely heating exhaust gases is also not very efficient. If one wants maximum specific-impulse in space, ion thrusters can't be beat. Theoretically, a single molecule could be accelerated sufficiently to enable star travel through the relativistic momentum equation, but practically ion thrusters use low voltages. The future is likely in Laser-driven plasma wakefield acceleration of heavy ions. (more...) If a benign element, such as Bismuth, could be (laser wakefield) accelerated as fast as electrons today, fuel could be ejected with TeV energies from an engine only a few meters long. Specific-impulse (SI) could exceed 10^8 seconds, more than a million-times better than chemical rockets. Interstellar travel will never be accomplished without increasing thrust velocity and fuel density. Even Mars travel could benefit from such an engine. Remember, thrust goes up with SI. A million-times SI leaves a lot of design room. Where today's Ion thrusters measure in grams-thrust, Laser-wakefield Bismuth thrusters could measure in tens or hundreds of kg thrust? Laser-wakefield Bismuth thrusters are also safe, non-radioactive (more or less), and might even be efficient. They routinely achieve 15% efficiency in colliders and presumably could be made even more efficient in thrust-engines?

Warribo : Is this for real? They set the experiment up on Jackass flats, in a building designated "R Mad"... let me guess the overseeing agency was called "Key Atomic Benefits Office of Mankind"!

Jerry Bot : "After deceleration through the atmosphere, the astronauts are jettisoned as they are no longer needed to guide the vehicle. At an altitude of 20,000 feet, the re-entry vehicle is jettisoned to further reduce weight. Finally, the parachute module makes the landing at a pre-determined location and is recovered safely by the ground crew, successfully concluding the space mission."

Don Turnblade : The chief disadvantages of nuclear propulsion fit into two areas. One, the rocket parts themselves become radio active -- specifically a rocket engine failure would create flying radio active scrap metal. We do have cases of satellites with nuclear reactor power plans that have re-entered earth's atmosphere so some of this risk may be managed. Still, would one really want to accidentally deliver a Uranium-235 reactor core to an uncontrolled landing? Two, the exhaust hydrogen will pick up neutrons as it passed through the reactor. High enough in space, this would be not much different than Solar wind. But, in the Earth's atmosphere is a chemical hazard, making natural burn products, not as bad as our current smog but still containing heavy water, heavy peroxide, and heavy nitric acid for example. The design is not much different from the Chernobyl reactor design. The tests near Sacramento -- an Aeroject facility exists in the area -- might explain a plume of Thyroid Cancer that occurred in the area approximately 20 years later. Whether this comes from the radiation shielding of Uranium-235, contaminate parts or radio active hydrogen burn products: mostly heavy water and heavy peroxide. Heavy hydrogen itself would float up to the top of the Earth Atmosphere and escape to space being not much different from Solar wind in structure or radio activity.

Driver6M : Mmmmm...Irradiated hydrogen, fired straight into the atmosphere. What could go wrong?!

Joseph Potch : i have inside info direct from NASA. They are thinking about using Farts. yes Farts. everyone on the space station were to contribute, and save their Farts. they would have enough fuel to go the Uranus. The Farts would be mildley radiioactive. They are working on filtering the lumps out. I suggested that they use lots of Metamucil and burn the fluid that is excreted. Remember this is top secret and Iwant to reman anonymous. You never heard this from me.

Nathan Frey : Jackass flats. Love the name.

CptnMerica : Jettison ALL the things!

iliketrains0pwned : NERVA scientists - "Perhaps one day, this rocket will achieve a whopping 900s of ISP." VASIMIR scientists - "That's adorable"

Dr Bendover : then along came Russia like a constricting region stifling advances in any further nuclear space technology.

Anthony van Hamond : jettison .... the magic word!!!!!

dream liner : I like rocket

sean johnson : Aptly named the "Chernobyl Thruster"!

Stadtpark90 : The end sounds like a mission worthy recreating in Kerbal Space Program...

WindRider NP : after watching this..someone with short thinking might went out to sea with his/her boat utilizing outboard engine and after they just happen to see an island they just doing the exact procedure..jettison!!

SmoothRide : Just thank....all that research and hard work for nothing! Hillary and Obama sold all the US nuclear material to Russia in that Uranium One deal they made. In exchange, Russia paid the Clinton foundation $140 million and paid Bill Clinton $150,000 for a speech he gave in Russia. Obama over saw the deal and was also well compensated. If you think this is're RIGHT!

heyidiot : Then came "The China Syndrome", and we decided that Michael Douglas, Jane Fonda, & Jack Lemmon made more sense than the actual scientists.

Zo Mi : and then rocket blows up in mid air during the transport of the nuke reactor to the space... few nights after you wonder why everyone is so shiny in the dark...

Lakario Davis : jesus did you see all those stages. and everything was jettisoned! looks extremely expensive to and crazy to just jettison billions of dollars worth of equipment into deep space lol no wonder it never made it off the ground.

Kris Bendix : Wait... so you actually can throttle a nuclear fission?! With those spinning rods...

johnny llooddte : ahahahahahaha im still waiting 70 years later

Steve Dunch : These old videos are priceless

Paul Morris : 75 thousand pounds... the merlin does 190 thousand, What a time to be alive.

Robert Staton : That triple rocket looked a lot like the SpaceX "heavy lift" rocket.

Michael McBroom : I doubt seriously there will ever be a nuclear rocket engine until we've cracked the problem of controlled fusion.

MrFattyfatfatboy : You've sold me , its just trying to convince my neighbors not to complain about a few extra rads they're bound to be absorbing .

Fred Flintstone : Got it! Now back to the garage.. .. .. ..

Albert Mag : We must evolve past the entire concept of propulsion travel ...Then and only then will the doors of intergalactic travel open for our species

Silverfire HD : The 60's technology video..bring it as a NEW technology in 2018..that says a lot..!

Allegheny500 : For anyone interested in what happens when you fly an unshielded nuclear reactor through the atmosphere I refer you to Project Pluto. This is unsafe on all levels.

CheapSushi : I bet the main goal was more nefarious though, probably to have practically unlimited Earth bound range on intercontinental ballistic missiles or to put heavy weapon payloads in space rather than the idealistic Mars exploration. Because if it was for general good, then someone would have probably wondered how likely a explosion at a launch pad or in the air was, and I mean truly admit that it wouldn't be 100% success forever, thus irradiating a large area.

lex mark : You know I wonder how many people are still alive on this who did this research who do have cancer and died. And even if they did I bet you no one's talking about it that was going to say anything that so-and-so had cancer and it was all caused by research to this program.

rein1705 : This engine can only "safely" be used in space. every bit of its exhaust is badly radioactive. Back in the 60's no one thought about what that radiation did after it left the engine. Also, that reactor looks like a disaster waiting to happen imo.

Emilio Borselli : ... and it’s jettisoned! The ‘60s mantra I guess hehe. I guess nowadays we could use thorium instead of Ur. Or may be they’d already testing a mini MARA... sci-fi, I love it!

조성우 : Solving radiation problem is essential i guess

V1 Gibby : Wow incredible to believe that they had the technology to go to mars and back back then, but he only thing stopping us today is the lack of “balls” in politics.SAD.

harvard james : Using gravity/anti-gravity is the key to space travel. There can't be enough fuel stored to make space travel more safe for farther distances.

SINESTERSERPENTSIXXX : why not use matter/anti matter or plamsa energy tech?

bitukukuasukgremany3 : What a great idea..Can't see a bad side :D

Anthony : If the Boron rods ever got stuck... it would become a hydrogen bomb.

Paul : You mean the rockets that were being worked on by Rocketdyne, there was a nuclear waste site in semi valley not too far from JPL. A small reactor that not too many people knew about, and recently in the last few years made public. I used to work at a company that made part of the plasma cutting equipment to cut up the old reactor. The stainless had some very interesting colors after being irradiated. This is what causes failure, as the material becomes brittle and with stress breaks instead of bending. GE has worked with this since the beginning. Nothing new here. Nice video though... There were articles about this in magazines in the 1960's such as Electronics World. I think it is interesting that Boron is found very close to an active air base today north of Los Angeles.