Lynchburg company creating out-of-this-world technology

NASA visited BWXT Friday to learn about technology that could help send them to Mars

LYNCHBURG, Va. – “Virginia is not only for lovers. Virginia now, is for space,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said.

A space initiative, decades in the making, could come down to a company in Lynchburg.

“The scope of the opportunities are dramatically expanding,” Senator Tim Kaine said.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, along with Senator Tim Kaine, visited BWXT’s innovation campus to learn about nuclear technology that would help astronauts travel faster in space.

Currently, a trip to Mars would take well over a year.

“We can go to the moon in four days, but it would be six to eight months to get to Mars depending on the alignment of the planets and then you’d have to stay there for a long time to get the planets realigned so you could get back in six to eight months,” Nelson said.

Administrator Nelson hopes the work BWXT is doing could cut that time down.

“If a rocket propulsion developed here, gets us here a lot faster, than on the first human trip to Mars, then we could sprint to Mars,” Nelson said.

The work Nelson is referring to is complex science but basically, they’re developing and testing using a nuclear fuel-thermal engine to propel a rocket to Mars.

Senator Kaine said the work being done in Virginia for space exploration shouldn’t be overlooked.

“The fact that BWXT in Lynchburg will not only connect visibly to the naval mission, but also to the space mission, that’s going to be so critical,” Kaine said.

Nelson said we’re at a point of space exploration previously unimagined.

“We make the impossible, possible. And that’s what’s so fun about NASA,” Nelson said.

NASA is hoping for the first human exploration trip to Mars in 2040.

About the Author

Abbie Coleman officially joined the WSLS 10 News team in January 2023.

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