NASA reveals a bold plan to put a nuclear reactor on the moon within 10 years

Moon He waits. After many decades in it no human Set foot on the moon, we go back. And very soon.

as part of NASA’s Artemis Program, astronauts are returning to the lunar environment as soon as possible by 2024, with the goal of eventually establishing a long-term human presence on the moon – a place we haven’t personally seen since 1972.

To live and work on the Moon, astronauts would need energy and a lot of it, and there is no electricity grid on the Moon.

While any number of innovative solutions They may be able to help solve this problem, for years NASA has considered nuclear fission to be the most practical An energy option for future astronaut coloniesNow the space agency is taking the next step in turning a nuclear reactor on the Moon into a reality.

“Abundant energy will be the key to future space exploration,” Jim Reuter says, associate director of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD).

Nuclear Propulsion to MarsIllustration of the fission surface energy system on Mars. (NASA)

After years of investigating the possibilities of lunar nuclear fission in the shadow of its precedent Kilopower projectNASA is leading a new campaign in Fission surface energy research, in cooperation with the US Department of Energy (DOE).

The two organizations now put down the call To US industry partners to submit design concepts for nuclear fission power systems that could operate on the lunar surface and be ready to launch and demonstrate their capabilities on the Moon within a decade.

According to NASA, a small, lightweight fission system — capable of operating on a lunar lander or lunar lander — could provide up to 10 kilowatts of electrical power, which would be enough to meet the electricity requirements of many average homes.

In the context of lunar operations, energy use will be different from what families on Earth require, of course: to operate life support systems, charge lunar vehicles, and help scientists conduct experiments.

according to NASA and Du’s message, future fission systems will eventually need to produce at least 40 kilowatts of power, which NASA says could power nearly 30 homes for up to 10 years.

At those expected levels, there must be enough energy to not only make a sustainable lunar existence possible, but one day to enable exploration and even colonization. Mars It is an extended scientific goal Endeavors of Artemis We finally got close.

Nuclear Propulsion to MarsIllustration of a spacecraft with a nuclear propulsion system. (NASA)

In fact, NASA says that today’s research into lunar fission energy systems can also help provide the proposed information. nuclear propulsion systems This may one day enable astronauts to travel to the Red Planet on spacecraft that travel at higher speeds for shorter missions.

One step at a time, though we’re probably still years away from seeing a lunar fission reactor actually working on the Moon. While NASA and the Department of Energy have enjoyed some success with Kilopower models in previous experimentsNo one has yet had a chance to test something like this on the Moon, as this is significant.

To bring us closer, NASA and the Department of Energy will select the most promising design proposals they receive between now and late February 2022, and help develop these concepts for a 12-month period.

After these projects are evaluated, what the researchers have learned will continue to guide the design and construction of a single final flight-qualified fission power system, which will be launched to the Moon on a demonstration mission, hopefully sometime this decade.

Then, finally, the Moon should have the beginnings of its own power grid — and the base of human operations in space will be on a new level for anything we’ve built before.

“The reaction and the enthusiasm we continue to see for space-based nuclear power systems has been very exciting, and understandably so,” He says Chief Engineer Sebastian Corbisero, head of the Surface Fission Energy Project at the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory.

“Providing a reliable, high-powered system on the Moon is a vital next step in human space exploration, and its realization is within our reach.”

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