“NASA-backed fusion engine could cut Mars trip down to 30 days”

I didn’t realize that we had the technology needed for fusion engines yet!

A common theme on this blog is science advances that were anticipated or inspired by science fiction, and this one is no exception. This fusion engine sounds very much like the fictional Lyle Drive mentioned at the beginning of Robert Heinlein’s famous work Stranger in a Strange Land, published in 1961:

The first human expedition to Mars was selected on the theory that the greatest danger to man was man himself. At that time […], an interplanetary trip made by humans had to be made in free-fall orbits — from Terra to Mars, two hundred fifty-eight Terran days, the same for return, plus four hundred fifty-five days waiting at Mars while the planets crawled back into positions for the return orbit. […]

A quarter of an Earth century passed before Mars was again visited by humans. […] Federation Ship Champion […] made the crossing under Lyle Drive in nineteen days. […]

It would be proper homage to a great master of science fiction if this as-yet-unnamed interplanetary drive were called the “Lyle Drive.” NASA: hint, hint. 😉