What are NASA’s plans to build a nuclear power plant on the Moon?

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Earlier this year, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced plans to bring the International Space Station (ISS) back to Earth, literally, in the year 2031, as the agency heads into a new era of public-private space exploration. NASA granted space law agreements for the design of three commercial space stations in free flight built to replace the ISSwhich will be safely shot down in a blaze of glory in just under a decade, when the current White House administration’s pledge under Joe Biden’s pledge to extend space station operations until in 2030 will expire. The ISS will then be consigned to the so-called “Spacecraft Graveyard”, a remote region of the Pacific Ocean east of New Zealand known as Point Nemo, which is frequently used by space agencies around the world as a target for decommissioned space objects.

As NASA plans the next phase of its development of space stations to facilitate deep space exploration and continued research and development programs, the agency recently announced another new initiative to advance its Artemis programwhich plans to “land the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon”, as well as possibly using the earth satellite to serve as a starting point for the large: send the first manned mission to Mars.

To achieve these goals, NASA is working with the US Department of Energy to develop new space nuclear technologies. As is the agency recently selected three proposals of a national competition set up to design nuclear energy, or fission surface power, design systems for provide astronauts with a reliable power source on the Moon.

Fission surface power could be the key to reaching Mars

The three contracts of 5 million dollars over 12 monthswho received Battelle Energy Alliance, the management and operations contractor for the Idaho National Laboratory, were awarded to fund the development of the initial design concepts for fission energy systems that could have an operational life expectancy of 10 years on the lunar surface. NASA hopes such a system could be ready to be sent to the moon for testing before the end of the 2020s.

One of the goals of fission surface energy technology is to help NASA develop nuclear propulsion systems that can be used in deep space missionslike sending a manned mission to Mars.

Contracts, according to NASA official websitewere awarded to the following companies:

  • Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Maryland – The company will partner with BWXT and Creare.
  • westing house of Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania – The company will partner with Aerojet Rocketdyne.
  • IX of Houston, Texas, a joint venture between Intuitive Machines and X-Energy – The company will partner with Maxar and Boeing.

The Fission Surface Power project is a very feasible first step towards the establishment of nuclear power on the Moon by the United StatesIdaho National Laboratory Director John Wagner told NASA’s website. “I can’t wait to see what each of these teams achieve.”

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