NASA announced plans to place a nuclear reactor on the moon by 2030 as part of a plan to turn the lunar body into an orbital power plant.
The US space agency has selected three nuclear power system design proposals that could be ready for launch by the end of the decade.
It will then be tested by astronauts returning to the lunar surface as part of the new Artemis program, which will see the first woman and 13th man land on the moon by 2025.
The 40 kilowatt fission power system is planned to operate in the lunar environment for at least 10 years, with the hope that one day it will be able to support a permanent human presence on the Moon, as well as support manned missions to the Moon. March and not only.
If NASA is going to build a base on the lunar surface, one of the main issues that needs to be addressed will be how power will be provided for such a proposed settlement.
Solar panels are great for powering rovers, but the population will need a continuous and reliable source of power.
NASA has announced plans to place a nuclear reactor on the Moon by 2030 as part of a plan to turn the lunar body into an orbital refueling station. The vision is shown in the image above
HOW DO NUCLEAR REACTORS WORK?
A nuclear reactor creates energy by splitting uranium atoms.
The energy released by these atoms is then used to boil water. This, in turn, drives the turbine.
The reactor core contains uranium pellets, and the 1,000 megawatt (MW) plant will have about 75 tons of enriched uranium.
Uranium-235 is bombarded with neutrons to split the atom, which then creates various elements or another uranium isotope.
Either way, it releases energy.
They also often undergo radioactive decay, and a chain reaction is started, which contributes to the production of clean energy.
Steam is produced, condensed, and then recycled, so the only waste products are often radioactive compounds produced by fission.
Control rods can be added to or removed from the reactor core to increase or decrease the reaction rate.
They are made from stable elements such as boron, silver, indium, and cadmium, which are capable of absorbing many neutrons without undergoing fission.
NASA experts see nuclear fission as the answer because the technology has been widely used on Earth.
Relatively small and light compared to other power systems, nuclear systems are reliable and can provide a continuous supply of power regardless of location, available sunlight and other natural environmental conditions, the US space agency said.
If a demonstration of such a system on the Moon is successful, it will pave the way for longer space travel.
“New technologies are driving our exploration of the Moon, Mars and beyond,” said Jim Reiter, Associate Administrator of NASA’s Office of Space Technology.
“The development of these early projects will help us lay the groundwork for our long-term human presence on other worlds.”
Each of the three design contracts to be awarded through the US Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory is valued at approximately $5 million (£4 million).
They were awarded to Lockheed Martin, Westinghouse of Cranberry Township in Pennsylvania and IX in Houston, Texas, a joint venture between Intuitive Machines and X-Energy.
The latter will cooperate with Maxar and Boeing.
However, the details of the individual design concept proposals have not yet been made public.
“The Fission Surface Power project is a very achievable first step for the United States to create nuclear power on the moon,” said John Wagner, director of the Idaho National Laboratory.
“I’m looking forward to what each of these teams will accomplish.”
It is hoped that the development of these ground-based fission power technologies will also help NASA improve nuclear propulsion systems that rely on reactors to generate power. They could then be used for deep space exploration missions.
It will then be tested by astronauts returning to the lunar surface as part of the new Artemis program, which will see the first woman and 13th man land on the moon by 2025. The picture shows the Artemis-1 mega-rocket that will take them there.
It is hoped that the development of these ground-based fission energy technologies will also help NASA improve nuclear propulsion systems (depicted in the artist’s image above) that rely on reactors to generate power. They could then be used for deep space exploration missions.
NASA’s original moon landing date was 2024, but last year it delayed the dateblaming Blue Origin of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
This August, the US space agency plans to send dummies into space as part of the Artemis I mission.
Artemis I will pave the way for crewed flights – Artemis II, which will launch in May 2024 and fly past the Moon without landing on it, and Artemis III, which will actually land on the lunar surface.
Artemis III, which will be launched “no earlier than 2025”, will be the first spacecraft to land humans on the Moon in more than 50 years, starting with Apollo 17 in December 1972.
NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon in 2025 as part of the Artemis mission.
Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo and the goddess of the moon in Greek mythology.
NASA chose her to represent their return journey to the Moon, which will take astronauts back to the lunar surface by 2025, including the first woman and the next man.
Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly challenging missions that will allow humans to explore the Moon and Mars.
Artemis 1 will be the first integrated flight test of NASA’s Deep Space Exploration System: Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, and ground systems at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Artemis 1 will be an unmanned flight that will lay the foundation for human exploration of deep space and demonstrate our commitment and ability to extend human existence to the Moon and beyond.
During this flight, the spacecraft will launch the most powerful rocket in the world and fly farther than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown.
It will fly 280,000 miles (450,600 km) from the Earth, thousands of miles from the Moon over a roughly three-week mission.
Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly challenging missions that will allow humans to explore the Moon and Mars. This drawing explains the different stages of the mission.
Orion will stay in space longer than any astronaut ship without docking to a space station and will return home faster and hotter than ever before.
With this first exploration mission, NASA will spearhead the next phases of human deep space exploration, where astronauts will build and begin testing systems near the Moon needed for missions to the Moon’s surface and exploration of other locations far from Earth, including Mars.
The crew will take a different trajectory and test important Orion systems with humans on board.
Together, Orion, SLS, and ground systems at Kennedy will be able to meet the most demanding crew and cargo needs in deep space.
Ultimately, NASA aims to have a sustainable human presence on the Moon by 2028 as a result of the Artemis mission.
The space agency hopes this colony will unlock new scientific discoveries, showcase new technological advances, and lay the foundation for private companies that will build the lunar economy.