NASA Aims to Establish Lunar Nuclear Reactor Within Next 10 Years
21:26 GMT 25.11.2021 (Updated: 20:47 GMT 19.10.2022)
Through the US Department of Energy, NASA has released a contract request for designs to build a nuclear reactor capable of making the journey to and functioning on the moon within the next decade.
The nuclear reactor is key to NASA’s Artemis Plan
, a mission to bring people back to the Earth's lunar satellite and set up infrastructure for a permanent moon base. From there, NASA will then launch the first human missions to Mars.
According to NASA
, “Fission surface power – in conjunction with solar cells, batteries, and fuel cells – can provide the power to operate rovers, conduct experiments, and use the moon’s resources to produce water, propellant, and other supplies for life support.”
NASA is interested in nuclear fission due to its reliability, power generating capabilities, and the ability for the technology to be compact and lightweight. The feasibility of the technology is reliant on its ease in making the 250,000-mile journey from the Earth to the moon.
However, due to shadowy craters and weekslong lunar nights, solar power is not enough to sustain long-term human habitation on the moon.
“NASA and the DOE are collaborating on this important and challenging development that, once completed, will be an incredible step towards long-term human exploration of the moon and Mars," Todd Tofil, who serves as the Fission Surface Power project manager, said.
“We’ll take advantage of the unique capabilities of the government and private industry to provide reliable, continuous power that is independent of the lunar location," he added.
The Artemis Plan aims to have people landing on the moon in 2024, a date that NASA has already indicated will be pushed back. Subsequent missions are expected to establish a lunar orbital space station called the Gateway, and slowly bring the infrastructure and robotics necessary to sustain human life.
The mission to send humans to the moon and then Mars is set to be a joint effort made by private industry and space programs around the world.
2 December 2020, 15:30 GMT
“The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has committed to providing advanced robotics for the Gateway, and ESA (European Space Agency) plans to provide the International Habitat (IHab) and the ESPRIT module, which will deliver additional communications capabilities, a science airlock for deploying science payloads and CubeSats, and refueling of the Gateway," reads NASA’s Artemis Plan manifesto.
"The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) plans to contribute habitation components and logistics resupply. The Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) has expressed interest in cooperation on Gateway as well.”
NASA is offering $5 million
to the company or person(s) who have the technical know-how and imagination to design a fission-based surface power generator. Applications are due by February 17th, 2022.