NASA’s plan to place a nuclear reactor on the Moon to help ‘explore Mars and beyond’ | Science | New

The space agency – in tandem with the US Department of Energy (DOE) – announced yesterday that it has selected three design concepts for a lunar nuclear power system. The three proposals could be ready to be launched at the Moon for a hands-on demonstration by the end of this. If successful, such a power plant could be useful for future space exploration efforts under the Artemis spaceflight program.

Led by NASA, Artemis’ primary goal is to facilitate the return of humans to the Moon, with short-term goals of reaching the lunar south pole by 2025 and landing both the first female and the first person of color on the surface of the Moon.

Longer-term goals include establishing a sustainable human presence on the lunar surface – for which a reliable power source would be invaluable – as well as laying the groundwork for lunar resource extraction and missions further afield. in the solar system.

Associate Administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Missions Directorate Jim Reuter said, “New technologies are driving our exploration of the Moon, Mars and beyond.”

“Developing these early designs will help us lay the groundwork for nurturing our long-term human presence on other worlds.”

According to NASA, the three concept winners will each be awarded 12-month contracts worth $5m (£4m) through the DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory.

These will find the development of designs to provide a 40 kilowatt class nuclear fission power system – enough to power 30 homes – that can operate for at least ten years in the lunar environment and survive the rigors of rocket transport. .

NASA’s call for proposals, released last November, also called for each design to fit in a cylinder 19.6 feet long and 13.1 feet in diameter in its stowed configuration and weigh less than 5.9 tons. .

A successful demonstration of such a prototype device on the Moon could pave the way for reliable power systems for long-term missions to the Moon and Mars.

READ MORE: China and Britain face off in race for first space-based POWER PLANT

The contract award, NASA explained, will provide critical industry information that could pave the way for the development of a fully flight-certified fission energy system.

These technologies will also help NASA mature so-called nuclear propulsion systems that rely on reactors to generate power and could be used in deep space exploration missions.

The surface fission energy project is managed by NASA from its Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

Funding comes from the Technology Demonstration Missions program of the Space Technology Missions Directorate.

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