Robert Bussard – Fusion Drives, Nuclear Propulsion & The Polywell Fusor

Imagine a spacecraft capable of transiting the moon in 24 hours, reaching Mars in 3 weeks, and opening up the inner solar system for exploration. We’re joined by Dr. Robert Bussard, former assistant director at the Atomic Energy Commission to discuss his work on fusion drives, nuclear rockets, the NERVA project, and of course, the Bussard Ramjet — a deep-space fusion drive he envisioned for interstellar travel.

About Our Guest

Dr. Robert W. Bussard was an pioneering American physicist specializing in nuclear fusion energy research. He was the recipient of the Schreiber-Spence Achievement Award for STAIF-2004, a fellow of the International Academy of Astronautics, and held a Ph.D. from Princeton University.

In the early 1970s Bussard served as Assistant Director under Director Robert Hirsch in the Controlled Thermonuclear Reaction Division of the Atomic Energy Commission. They founded the mainline fusion program for the United States: the Tokamak.

In addition to his contributions to the US fusion energy program, Bussard was also a pioneer in the field of aerospace nuclear propulsion in the NEPA program, and later influenced the Project Rover & NERVA nuclear-thermal rocket programs.

Bussard is also widely known for conceiving of a novel space drive for interstellar travel, named the Bussard Ramjet in his honor. It has been popularized in science fiction by authors such as Poul Anderson, Larry Niven, Vernor Vinge, Jerry Pournelle, as well as being mentioned by Carl Sagan.