November 28, 2021

Beyond Going Long

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NASA wants to launch a nuclear reactor on the moon within 10 years

NASA wants to launch a nuclear reactor on the moon within 10 years

After several decades, people want to return to the surface of the moon. As part of NASA’s Artemis program, this should happen as early as 2024, and the goal is to create the conditions for a long-term human presence on the Moon. But if astronauts want to live and work on the moon, they need energy. A number of creative ideas have already appeared to solve this problem. NASA considers nuclear fission to be the most practical energy option for future astronaut colonies. He is now taking more steps to make the lunar nuclear reactor a reality.

After years of exploring the possibilities of the previous project kilopower The space agency is urging US industrial partners to devise concepts for nuclear fission power systems that can operate on the lunar surface and be ready to launch and demonstrate their capabilities on the moon over a decade. According to NASA, a small, lightweight fission system could provide up to 10 kilowatts of electricity, which would be enough to meet the power requirements of a few average homes.

Of course, energy consumption on the Moon will be different from what households on Earth require. Life support systems must be turned on, lunar rover charging, and scientists helping conduct experiments. According to NASA, future fission systems will have to produce at least 40 kilowatts of power. Thus, it would provide enough energy not only to allow a permanent presence on the Moon, but one day also to be able to explore and even colonize Mars.

Today’s research into lunar fission power systems could also help realize proposed nuclear propulsion systems, which could one day allow astronauts to travel to the Red Planet on spacecraft moving at higher speeds on shorter missions. NASA expects project proposals by February 22, after which, in cooperation with the US Department of Energy, it will select the most promising projects and help develop these concepts within 12 months.

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After design and construction, one final system will be flown to the Moon as part of a demonstration mission, possibly in this decade. This would mark the beginnings of the Moon’s power grid, which would allow the construction of the universe’s first human base.


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