RUSSIA is plotting to launch a nuclear power plant to MARS as its space race with the United States picks up pace.
The station, proposed by an offshoot of Russia's space agency Roscosmos, would power a manned base on the Red Planet.
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Plans for the project have been put together by The Arsenal Design Bureau, state-owned news agency Sputnik reports.
Arsenal is a a St. Petersburg-based subsidiary of Roscosmos specialising in the production of space tech.
The group's Mars reactor design would be based on Zeus – a Russian nuclear-powered space tug expected to begin flight-testing in 2030.
"Under Arsenal’s proposal, the reactor would be delivered to Red Planet aboard Zeus," Sputnik said.
It added that the technology "will be and floated down to its surface using a parachute system."
"After landing, the power plant would be activated to provide energy to a prospective Russian Martian base."
Zeus could then be deployed between the Sun and Mars as a transmission point between the base and mission control on Earth, Sputnik reported.
Earlier this year, plans for Zeus were unveiled by Roscosmos chief Alexander Bloshenko.
The agency plans to send the nuclear-powered spacecraft to Jupiter with stopovers at the Moon and Venus, he said during a presentation in Moscow.
Zeus' reactor is designed to generate enough power to lug heavy cargo through deep space as breakneck speeds.
The "space tug" would have the capacity to carry equipment and possibly astronauts hundreds of millions of miles.
A number of countries have their eyes on similar technology to help them complete long-distance flights through the cosmos.
Spacecraft currently rely on gravity or solar power to carry out longer trips.
A manned journey to Mars and back using this technology would take as long as three years.
Nuclear-powered engines could shave a year off of this journey time, according to Nasa.
The US space agency hopes to put a small nuclear-power plant attached to a lunar lander on the Moon as early as 2027.
It's part of an experiment to test out the fledgling technology. So far, Nasa has only sent one nuclear plant into space, on a satellite in 1965.
Russia, on the other hand, has sent dozens of plants into space.
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In other news, Sir Richard Branson made history over the weekend after successfully reaching space in his commercial Virgin Galactic spaceplane.
The billionaire described his landmark spaceflight as "extreme in every way" and a "dream come true" in an exclusive chat with The Sun.
Aliens may have dropped life-detecting sensors onto Earth, according to a Harvard University professor.
And, China launched three astronauts into orbit to continue building its own space station.
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