Copyright © 2011 by Willis L. Shirk. Published by the Mars Society with permission.
Aiming for the Stars
The Forgotten Legacy of the Westinghouse Astronuclear Laboratory
Willis L. Shirk Jr.
Before his death, renowned science fiction writer, inventor, and futurist Arthur C. Clarke (1917–2008) confidently declared the space age had not yet begun, and would only commence when reliable nuclear-powered space vehicles become available to drastically reduce the cost of moving humans and heavy payloads from the surface of the earth to the farthest reaches of the solar system. It is a little appreciated fact that PittsburghÕs Westinghouse Electric Company played a central role in bringing that vision much closer to reality through its participation in the Nuclear Energy for Rocket Vehicle Applications (NERVA) program between 1959 and 1973. With recently renewed interest in the human exploration of Mars and destinations in the outer solar system, attention is once again focusing on the remarkable accomplishments that Westinghouse made in the development of the largely untapped potential of the nuclear thermal rocket.