24/02/2016 10:47 GMT | Updated 24/02/2016 12:59 GMT

A Giant Laser Could Blast Spacecraft To Mars In Just Three Days

There's no easy way to say this, if you want to fly to Mars then the current journey time is a long, cramped, five months. That's almost half a year's worth of sudoku, bad jokes and awful tea.

mars sail

This concept image shows the spacecraft's reflective sails needed to capture the light from the laser.

What if we told you there was not only a way to reduce the journey time to just one month, but that the way you would do it is by firing a giant laser at the spacecraft from Earth.

Well a NASA scientist, Philip Lubin, has come up with just that idea and says that it could herald the first steps into Interstellar flight.

orion mars

Eventually the technology could be used to propel humans in spacecraft like this Orion module.

The system is known as photonic propulsion and puts forward the idea of using lasers as a way of 'pushing' spacecraft to incredible speeds.

In the case of Mars, a small 100kg spacecraft would be fitted with a huge reflective mirror on the back. An immensely powerful laser would then send pulses of light towards the spacecraft, effectively pushing it.

mars spacecraft

For now NASA sees this technology as the future propulsion system for small robot spacecraft.

This outlandish new form of propulsion would actually be able to propel the craft to up to 30 per cent the speed of light.

The result? Well an unmanned spacecraft would be able to reach Mars in just 72 hours. A manned one would take just a single month.

Lubin postures that in the future this method of transport could be used to create giant interplanetary 'highways' along which craft would be shunted at enormous speeds.

Upon arriving at its destination conventional rocket boosters would slow it down before another laser would fire it back towards Earth.

Of course there are a few kinks that need ironing out, the most important of which is that if you actually want the craft to come back again, while still slowing down at Mars, you're going to need to power and build a giant laser at the destination.

As far as we're concerned though that's just splitting hairs because in truth, who isn't sold by an idea that contains the phrase 'giant laser' in it.