It's a revolutionary new space propulsion system that may get us to Mars a lot faster.

The biggest hindrance to a manned Mars mission is the sheer amount of time it takes to get there — six months using conventional rocket engines.

All that time, astronauts would be subjected to harsh solar radiation, from which people on Earth — and aboard the space shuttle — are protected by the Earth's magnetic field.

But a new twist on an old idea may cut the Mars travel time to six weeks.

The As Astra Rocket Company is developing a new ion engine, New Scientist magazine reports.

Conventional ion engines blast a small stream of charges particles to propel a spacecraft. They start slow but can build up tremendous speeds over time.

Still, the regular ion engine wouldn't get us to Mars very fast.

So Ad Astra uses superpowered magnets to heat the ion stream — and would mount a nuclear reactor on a Mars-bound craft to make it even more powerful.

• Click here to read more from New Scientist.