The sign next to the NERVA engine. It reads
This innovative Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Applications (NERVA) was an
experimental nuclear engine designed for long-duration manned space flight,
including a proposed manned mission to Mars. There was no combustion of
propellants inside this engine. Rather, liquid hydrogen was superheated as it
passed through a nuclear reactor, then expelled through the nozzle. This
design achieved a much higher specific impulse than even the Space Shuttle Main Engine.
In addition, the thrust, although less than that of an SSME, could be sustained
long-term for deep space exploration. Despite these technological successes,
development plans for NERVA were eventually canceled out of concern over the
use of nuclear materials for manned space flight.
Aerojet-General Corporation (prime contractor)
Westinghouse Corporation (reactor)
Developed for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and NASA.