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NASA looks for ideas for a nuclear reactor on the moon

BOISE, Idaho – If anyone has a good idea for how to put a nuclear fission power plant on the moon, the US government wants to hear about it.

NASA and the nation’s leading federal nuclear research laboratory on Friday submitted a request for a proposal for a fission surface power system.

NASA is working with the US Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory to establish a solar-independent energy source for missions to the moon later this decade.

“Delivering a reliable, high-energy system on the moon is an important next step in human space exploration, and achieving it is within our grasp,” said Sebastian Corbisiero, head of the Fission Surface Power Project at the lab, said in a statement.

If successful in supporting a long-term human presence on the moon, the next target will be Mars. NASA says surface fission energy can provide an abundant, sustainable source of energy regardless of environmental conditions on the moon or Mars.

“I hope fissile surface energy systems will be of great benefit to our plans,” said Jim Reuter, deputy administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. about energy architecture for the moon and Mars and even driving innovation for use here on Earth.

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

Plans submitted for a fission surface power system should include a uranium-fuelled reactor core, a system to convert nuclear energy into usable energy, and a heat management system to keep for cool reactors and distribution systems providing no less than 40 kilowatts of continuous electrical energy for 10 years in a lunar environment.

Some other requirements include the ability to turn itself off and on without human assistance, be able to operate from the deck of the lunar lander, and be able to be detached from the lander and run on a roving system. and transported to another lunar site for operation.

In addition, when launched from Earth to the moon, it must fit inside a cylinder 12 feet (4 meters) in diameter by 18 feet (6 meters) long. It must not weigh more than 13,200 pounds (6,000 kg).

Requests for proposals are for initial system design and must be submitted by February 19.

Idaho National Laboratory has worked with NASA on various projects in the past. Most recently, the lab helped power NASA Mars rover Persisting with the radioisotope energy system, converts the heat generated by the natural breakdown of plutonium-238 into electrical energy.

The car-sized probe landed on Mars in February and is still active on the red planet.

The Department of Energy has also been working to partner with private businesses on various nuclear power plans, particularly on a new generation of smaller power plants ranging from modular reactors. small to small mobile reactors that can be quickly set up in the field and then dismantled when not needed.

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