A traditional chemical rocket trip to our moon takes about three days, covering some 238,000 miles. By comparison, Saturn's most promising lunar body resides nearly 4,000 times further away at over 790 million miles from Earth. However, despite the chasm between traditional and theoretical propulsion systems, deep space exploration need not grind to a halt as a stopgap propulsion system already exists.
Fully within the grasp of modern day technology and capable of fulfilling these immediate needs, are Nuclear Thermal Rockets (NTRs).
The Nuclear Thermal Rocket: A Misunderstood Beast
The idea of employing nuclear fission rockets for space exploration has been around for over half a century. In fact, President John F. Kennedy originally expressed his support of the government fission rocket project 'Rover/NERVA' as the step after the Apollo program during his famous Congressional moon speech in 1961.
During the mid-20th century, the NERVA program succeeded in proving, through ground-based testing, that NTR propulsion systems could provide a safe and efficient method for sending payloads greater than small exploratory probes into the outer reaches of our solar system. Unfortunately, little progress toward implementation has been made since then, as a cloud of misunderstanding slowly settled over the idea of utilizing nuclear technology within the space program.