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NASA's leap towards hastening our march to the Red Planet just took a giant leap closer to reality with the recent focus on an advanced propulsion system. Referred to as the pulsed plasma rocket, this novel system has the potential to slice the travel time to Mars from an arduous nine months down to just two, bringing transformative changes in the field of human spaceflight.

Likening this development to replacing a horse and carriage with a modern sports car, NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program is betting on this innovative technology, among six other daring projects. The concept, devised by Arizona-based firm Howe Industries, uses nuclear fission to create chunks of amplified charged particles, or plasma, thereby generating thrust.

The idea of a plasma-based propulsion system isn't entirely new to NASA. As of 2018, the space agency was engaged in a project titled Pulsed Fission-Fusion (PuFF). However, the nuance with the latest iteration of a pulsed plasma rocket is that it is far simpler, more compact, and, most importantly, economically more suitable.

By dramatically ramping up the efficiency of the propulsion structure, NASA anticipates a significant reduction in the duration of manned missions to Mars. A mere two-month journey in comparison to the traditional nine, means astronauts would face significantly reduced exposure to harmful space radiation and disorienting microgravity.

And that's not all. Equipped with muscle to handle heavier payloads, the new propulsion system also opens up the possibility of incorporating onboard shielding against the onslaught of cosmic rays. This adds an additional layer of safety, making the proposed trips to Mars less risky for human exploration.

As we move into Phase 2 of the NIAC program, the focus is set on a deeper assessment of the pulsed plasma rocket system. This will include evaluations on spacecraft design, power mechanisms, magnetic nozzle capabilities, and strategic trajectories among other aspects.

The introduction of this new propulsion technique promises a seismic shift in humankind's exploration of outer space. Not only are we potentially looking at significantly shorter journey times, but also the liquidity to take along heavier payloads and enhanced radiation protection. It's a tantalizing prospect that humanizes the harsh realities of space travel, simplifying the discomfort of a Mars journey, and bringing us one step closer to becoming a multi-planetary species. Though the path might still be arduous, NASA’s new propulsion system is paving the way towards a hopeful promise of mankind's future in Mars exploration.

Clearly, the impact of this transformative approach to propulsion does not stop at improving efficiency or speed, it has the potential to redefine the course of space travel, opening up new frontiers not just for humans, but for our understanding of the universe.