Detail on the Gas Core Closed Cycle Nuclear Light Bulb engine can be found on Winchell Chung’s Atomic Rockets site, here: Gas Core Closed Cycle Nuclear Light Bulb.
The Nuclear Light Bulb engine is similar to an open-cycle gas core fission rocket, but the uranium plasma is confined in a fused quartz chamber. The good news is that unlike the open-cycle GCNR it does not spray glowing radioactive death, there is no uranium escaping in the exhaust. The bad news is that the maximum exhaust velocity is halved, as is the Delta-V. The solution would be to somehow constrain the uranium by something non-material, such as a magnetohydrodynamic force field. Winchell Chung points out, currently such fields can only withstand pressures on the order of the breeze from a flapping mosquito, not the 500 atmospheres of pressure found in a nuclear light bulb engine. But since researchers are working along the same lines in their attempts to make a fusion reactor, this may change. Winchell did find a brief reference to something called an "MHD choke" in reference to slowing the escape of uranium into the exhaust stream of an open-cycle gas core rocket. So this would be the technology challenge in making such engines a reality.
A closed-cycle GCNR with a thrust to weight ratio higher than one would allow using the awesome might of the atom to boost truely massive amounts of payload into Terra orbit, without creating a radioactive wasteland with every launch. See the GCNR Liberty Ship for an example. The Liberty Ship can boost in one launch more payload than any given Space Shuttle does in the shuttles entire 10 year operating life. Then the Liberty Ship can land and do it again.
— Technical detail and commentary courtesy Winchell Chung @ Atomic Rockets
The capabilities of Anthony Tate's Liberty Ship are a close match to the kind of heavy lift and de-orbit capability necessary to the needs of the Martian terraforming program. Many years ago, around '07-'08, I created a model of the Liberty Ship, and the closed-cycle GCNR, which you can see on Winchell Chung's site, and when it came time to build this model it occurred to me that the Liberty Ship matched the capability I had in mind.
A launch image is to be found here: Nuclear SSTO Launch.
A powered descent in the Martian atmosphere is not the same thing as flight achieved by generating aerodynamic lift – “flight” in this context means controlling and trimming the vehicles free-fall velocity. Free fall velocity is the free momentum generated by the pull of gravity on the vehicle after its orbital velocity has been cancelled. The spacecraft falls in a ballistic arc, and you can fire the engines as needed to extend the range of that arc. This is not flying by generating lift, it is managing the momentum lent by gravity, extending the range of that ballistic arc, adding and subtracting velocity as needed by firing rockets either in normal mode, or in reverse thrust mode.
My Martian Suborbital VTO/L flies in exactly the same fashion.
This is why you don't want to live anywhere near a black hole, or any other kind of old, dense star.
You'd have more and more time to do what you like the closer you get to the event horizon and you would have something beautiful to look at, but your planet wouldn't last much longer, unfortunately.
Step one: Point a finger at a remote star system in a random galaxy somewhere in our universe; or another... and start painting.
A personal layer record for me on this one.