05/09/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Mars In 40 Days: New Rocket Engine Could Make Quick Space Travel Possible

Last week, reported an exciting piece of news for space exploration enthusiasts: technology that could someday make human travel to Mars possible in as little as 40 days may already exist.

A company founded by former NASA astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz has been developing a new rocket engine that draws upon electric power and magnetic fields to channel superheated plasma out the back. That stream of plasma generates steady, efficient thrust that uses low amounts of propellant and builds up speed over time.

The trip to the red planet typically takes half a year. A mission study confirmed that with this new rocket engine and an appropriate power source, the journey could really happen in just over a month.

In April, President Obama plans to announce details of NASA's recent shift of focus and relocation of resources. According to a White House statement, the talk affirms NASA's continued interest in Mars exploration:

"After years of underinvestment in new technology and unrealistic budgeting, the President's plan will unveil an ambitious plan for NASA that sets the agency on a reinvigorated path of space exploration," the White House said in a statement.

It said the investment in new technology would "help us travel from the Earth's cradle to our nearby Solar System neighborhood in a more effective and affordable way, thus laying the foundation to support journeys to the Moon, asteroids, and eventually to Mars."

For more details on the new rocket engine, read the article here,