In an article in the Times of London a British scientist predicted that nuclear powered aircraft will soon be carrying millions of passengers around the world. The British government is funding a project, called Omega, to develop nuclear power for aircraft in order to reduce aircraft use of fossil fuels and to produce a more environmentally friendly means of air travel.
It turns out that this is not such a new idea. Back in the 1950s both the old Soviet Union and the United States military were developing nuclear powered bombers that could remain aloft and in orbit for days at a time. The United States even went as far as test flying a nuclear reactor in an aircraft powered by kerosene powered jet engines and a lead lined cockpit to protect the crew. Each test flight was conducted with another aircraft loaded with US Marines who would parachute down to earth and secure a crash site should an accident occur.
In the 1960s the projects were dumped in favor of ballistic missiles which made nuclear powered aircraft redundant. In an interview with The Times, Professor Poll said: “We need to be looking for a solution to aviation emissions which will allow flying to continue in perpetuity with zero impact on the environment." Professor Poll did, however, feel that it might take some 30 years or so before the public would be willing to travel on nuclear powered aircraft.
More on this subject tomorrow. In the meantime you don't need to get out your radiation detector badges just yet!
Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch!
Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds...and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of...wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up, the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, nor even eagle flew.
And while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space...
...put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.