The exploration of space could have been decades ahead of where we are now...During a two-decade period;, from the 1950s to the 1970s, a nuclear rocket propulsion system was developed capable of performing robotic and human exploration of our solar system. The US government's Rover programme developed the system and succeeded in demonstrating the propulsion capabilities required for deep space exploration missions. The programme was terminated for political reasons in the mid-1970s. You have to wonder-if the nuclear rocket had been used and further developed during the 30 years since then, where could we be today? This comprehensive history details both the technical accomplishments of the nuclear rocket system and the political wrangling that strangled it. Together, NASA and the Atomic Energy Commission carried out the Rover program, and together they had their budgets slashed and were micro-managed by pork-barrel-motivated politicians. And after accomplishing success against the odds, they were shut down. Instead of NERVA, the state-of-the-art nuclear system developed by the Rover program, Congress was sold on the Space Shuttle, outdated before it was launched.
Instead of the solar system, we got low-Earth orbit. James A Dewar has produced a well-researched and well-organised account of what was accomplished, who made the decisions, and why it all was for naught. If NASA and the AEC had been allowed to do the job they had originally been given, today we could have been exploring out To the End of the Solar System.
James A. Dewar worked exclusively on nuclear affairs in the Department of Energy and its predecessor agencies, the Energy Research and Development Administration and the Atomic Energy Commission. He lives in Oxford, Maryland.