(Bloomberg) -- NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said on Tuesday they will jointly develop a nuclear thermal rocket engine that will help the US stage crewed missions to Mars. 

The agencies plan to develop and demonstrate advanced nuclear thermal propulsion technology as early as 2027, according to a joint statement. A nuclear thermal rocket would reduce transit time and boost payload capacity, they said. 

“With the help of this new technology, astronauts could journey to and from deep space faster than ever – a major capability to prepare for crewed missions to Mars,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in the statement. 

The US is plotting a return to the moon as well as a path toward deep-space exploration over the next several decades. 

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