Space... the final frontier... or at least what we know of as the final frontier. It's an awfully big place and it feels like we're not really making the most of it. More appropriately, it feels like the things we could be doing to expand into space (and perhaps beyond?) need a bit of a jump-start and a kick in the gonads. Thankfully, here at Pop Blend, we have a few suggestions floating around that might help the very smart and scientifically enlightened folks at NASA branch out and explore a few ways to make the most of that unused space... in space.

Here are 7 things NASA should be doing right now to prepare for the future of space travel.

New Fuel To Fly Into Space... And Beyond
So rocket fuel (of various types) is the way aeronauts get into space. Burning at various high degrees and usually doing so in two stages; it's easy (relatively) and efficient (for their standards) to put people in space burning off a large tank of fuel in a short amount of time. While this method is great for propelling things into orbit, the problem is that orbit is as far as they go. Need to go further, faster? No luck there, champ. Anything that has to travel further is set on a flight path and slow-burns its way to a destination using small amounts of propellent to guide the course. The major problem with this, of course, is that it takes way too long for things to get where they're going. Wasting a year traveling to a destination like Mars is, well, wasteful.

Now there have been some proposed alternatives to fueling long-travel destinations in space, such as ion thrusters or MPD (magnetoplasmadynamic thruster), but one alternative is using a source that won't run out anytime soon: the sun. Previously, laser-powered propulsion was considered (and has been considered since the late 1990s, as outlined in Space Daily), but it required way too much of a power draw from a fairly large power source. There's no way you can boot-strap a major power-station to some rockets and throw it into space. Instead, it might be more effective to add a third-stage to the blast-off that includes a mix of MPD thrusters and solar-powered laser-propulsion that uses heat magnified by the sun. This should be more than enough to make up for the huge wattage consumption from laser-propulsion. Heck, this technology already exists here on the sandy grounds of Earth. It's called a solar furnace, and it's been outlined by Discover Magazine. Instead of drifting in space after the initial fast burn getting out of Earth's orbit, wouldn't it be a heck of a lot better to travel to a destination not moving at retired-Ford-worker speeds?

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