Ion engine to propel spacecraft to Mercury

Jan 20, 2008

British space experts have been given the green light to start building a Star Trek-like engine for a Mercury-bound spacecraft.

The ion-powered BebiColumbo, which is set to leave Earth in 2013 for a six-year voyage to Mercury, will reach fuel efficiencies equal to 17.8 million miles per gallon, The Daily Telegraph reported Friday.

The hot planet has puzzled scientists because of its density in spite of being the planet closest in proximity to our solar system's sun.

Information gathered from the planetary investigation, which is being conducted by the European Space Agency and Astrium -- Europe's leading space enterprise-- is predicted to clarify ambiguity surrounding the configuration and pasts of Earth and other central planets.

"Ion propulsion will be a key technology for a series of future long-distance exploration missions. Today's agreement puts British scientists and engineers in a strong position in Europe to take a lead role in adopting these systems for future spacecraft," Astrium electro-propulsion specialist Howard Gray said.

Copyright 2008 by United Press International

Explore further: NASA team lays plans to observe new worlds

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weewilly
not rated yet Jan 20, 2008
The miles per gallon sounds good but is there any pollution that will be left behind in space? Of course it will take a chemical propulsion system to get it up into space into zero gravity so it's Ion Engine will work okay.
CreepyD
not rated yet Jan 21, 2008
I bet this stat doesn't take the chemical propulsion required to get into space into account.