NASA studies of nuclear-powered spacecraft--designed to dig for life at the North Pole of Mars, drop pressure-resistant probes into distant Neptune's atmosphere and thrust out of the solar system into the galactic environment--are becoming less hypothetical as the agency activates its new long-range exploration plans. Work on a series of future "Vision Missions" was already underway when President Bush issued his new space exploration directive in January, but they play right into Bush's ...

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