NASA wants nuclear reactors on the Moon — RT World News

The US space agency said on Tuesday NASA wants a nuclear-powered reactor for lunar and planetary exploration, announcing three conceptual design development contracts by the end of the decade with cooperation of the Department of Energy. Military-industrial giant Lockheed Martin was among the participating companies, along with nuclear veteran Westinghouse.

NASA hopes to have a design for “Fission Surface Electrical System” ready to launch by the end of the decade. John Wagner, director of the DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory, called the project “A very achievable first step toward establishing nuclear power on the Moon by the United States.”

Three 12-month contracts, worth $5 million each, and will fund initial design concepts for a 40-kilowatt fission power system, with a requirement to last at least 10 years in extreme environments of the moon. If successfully demonstrated on the lunar surface, the reactors could be used for the final mission to Mars. NASA said.

In addition to Lockheed Margin and Westinghouse, the third contractor will be a Texas-based outfit called IX. This is a joint venture between spacecraft designer Intuitive Machines and X-Energy, developers of a cobblestone experiment reactor.

“Developing these early designs will help us lay the foundation for a lasting human presence on other worlds,” Jim Reuter of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate said.

The fission system is relatively smaller, lighter and can provide “Continuous power regardless of location, available sunlight and other natural environmental conditions,” space agency said. NASA also hopes to receive “Important Information” from the nuclear industry could lead to the development of atomic propulsion systems for deep space exploration missions.

The contracts are part of the Artemis program, a US initiative to return to the moon – and put the first woman and man of color on the lunar surface. It is named after Apollo’s twin sister, the Greek god, who was named after the original United States moonshot. The original schedule called for the first landing to take place in 2024, but last year NASA said it was no longer on the right track to get there, citing lack of funding.

In March, NASA announced plans to send humans to Mars by 2040. Less than a week later, they had to cancel a test of the Artemis I spacecraft due to technical problems.

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