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Moon, NASA wants to produce nuclear energy there

Moon, NASA wants to produce nuclear energy there

Permanent and sustainable presence ofHumanity on the moon It will require systems capable of generating power while coping with the most adverse conditions. there NASA believes that this future can be achieved thanks to nuclear fission reactors. The US space agency is actually processing and evaluating data collected by its commercial partners after a year of research into the technology.

The first phase of the project Nuclear energy production on the moon I started in 2022 with the mission Of three contracts worth five million dollars For research related to nuclear fission, which aims to develop Projects capable of guaranteeing 40 kilowatts for 10 years Without human maintenance. If on Earth this energy is enough to power 33 homes, on our satellite it will be enough to power NASA's entire science and exploration ecosystem.

Why doesn't solar energy work on the moon?

Research related to the moon Solar panels cannot be relied upon traditional. The main research centers for the Artemis missions will be established in Lunar South Pole, within constantly dark areas. Furthermore, any point on the satellite is affected by a phenomenon known as the “lunar night,” a period corresponding to 14 Earth days in which there is a complete absence of light.

The absence of an atmosphere also rules out the option of wind energy, and there is not enough evidence to prove the feasibility of geothermal energy on the Moon. Finally, the volatility of conventional fuels makes it impossible to consider transporting them to our natural satellite. Therefore, the only available solution remains nuclear energy: A special reactor capable of splitting atoms into tiny nuclei to generate usable radiation could be key to the survival of future astronauts.

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Nuclear fission on our satellite

Achieving nuclear fission in space, however It won't be an easy task. This is why NASA did this Ask three companies to suggest viable alternatives. The agency's current leadership is confident that competition for its lucrative contracts will lead to creative new solutions in the space race. this Hybrid approach between public and private sectors It has already yielded results, as with Axiom Space's spacesuits and SpaceX launches.

Details of the first phase of the nuclear fission initiative are classified. At this moment we only know what the project is flexibleAny proposal capable of generating 40 kilowatts of energy without exceeding the six-ton ​​limit can be developed further. “There is a wide range of styles. They are all very different from each other. We deliberately didn't provide too many requirements because we wanted them to think outside the box“, Ha Announce Lindsey Caldon, President NASA's Fission Surface Energy Project.

The three companies are already presenting the first results, which are being carefully reviewed by NASA. The next phase of the project will begin in 2025, with the launch of the final procurement process for the project Build the best and safest nuclear fission reactor possible.

I After that, the reactor should be ready in the first years of the next decade. At that point, the mission will put it on the lunar surface for a 12-month test, and if all goes as planned, it will stay for another nine years. At the end of its life cycle, the system will be disassembled and the original design modified based on the new information gathered. The idea is that by 2040, NASA scientists will have gained enough experience in this field to attempt this Bringing technology to Mars.

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This article originally appeared on Wired in Spanish.