NASA is looking for ideas for a nuclear reactor on the Moon

NASA is looking for ideas for a nuclear reactor on the Moon

Boise, Idaho If anyone has a good idea of ​​how to put a nuclear fission power plant on the Moon, the US government would want to hear about it.

NASA and the country’s top federal nuclear research laboratory on Friday submitted a request for proposals for a surface fission power system.

NASA is collaborating with the US Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory to create a solar-independent power source for missions to the Moon by the end of the decade.

“Providing a reliable, high-energy system on the Moon is a vital next step in human space exploration, and its realization is within our reach,” Sebastian Corbesiero, head of the Laboratory’s Fission Surface Energy Project, said in a statement.

If it succeeds in supporting a sustainable human presence on the Moon, the next target will be Mars. NASA says surface fission energy can provide abundant sustainable energy regardless of environmental conditions on the Moon or Mars.


“I expect fission surface energy systems to benefit greatly from our plans to power engineering the Moon and Mars, and even spur innovation for uses here on Earth,” Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, said in a statement.

The reactor will be built on Earth and then sent to the Moon.

Plans submitted for a fission surface power system shall include a uranium reactor core, a system for converting nuclear energy into usable energy, a thermal management system to keep the reactor cool, and a distribution system providing at least 40 kW of continuous electrical power for 10 years in Moon environment.

Some of the other requirements include it being able to turn itself off and on without human assistance, being able to operate from the surface of a lunar lander, and being able to be removed from the probe and run on a mobile system and moved to a different lunar location for operation.


Additionally, when launched from Earth to the Moon, it must fit inside a cylinder 12 feet (4 meters) in diameter and 18 feet (6 meters) long. It must not weigh more than 13,200 lbs (6000 kg).

Requests for proposals are for preliminary system design and must be submitted no later than February 19th.

Idaho National Laboratory has worked with NASA on various projects in the past. Recently, the lab helped power NASA’s Mars rover with a radioisotope power system, which converts heat from the natural decomposition of plutonium-238 into electrical energy.

The car-sized rover landed on Mars in February and remains active on the Red Planet.

The Department of Energy is also working to collaborate with private companies on various nuclear power plans, particularly in a new generation of smaller power plants that range from small modular reactors to small mobile reactors that can be quickly built in the field and then removed when not needed.

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