NASA developing nuclear fission to use on moon’s surface

September 11th, 2008 - 12:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 11 (Xinhua) NASA engineers are exploring the possibility of nuclear fission to provide the necessary power when its astronauts return to the moon and establish a lunar outpost in the future, the US space agency has said.”Engineers are taking initial steps toward a technology demonstration of this type of system,” said a NASA statement released Wednesday.

A fission surface power system on the moon has the potential to generate a steady 40 KW of electric power, enough for about eight houses on earth. It works by splitting uranium atoms in a reactor to generate heat that then is converted into electric power, says NASA.

The system can produce large amounts of power in harsh environments, like those on the surface of the moon or Mars, because it does not rely on sunlight.

The primary components of this kind of systems are a heat source, power conversion, heat rejection and power conditioning and distribution, NASA said.

“Our goal is to build a technology demonstration unit with all the major components of a fission surface power system and conduct non-nuclear, integrated system testing in a ground-based space simulation facility,” said Lee Mason, principal investigator for the test at the Glenn Center.

“Our long-term goal is to demonstrate technical readiness early in the next decade, when NASA is expected to decide on the type of power system to be used on the lunar surface.”

According to the agency, a nuclear reactor used in space is much different than earth-based systems. There are no large concrete cooling towers, and the reactor is about the size of an office trash can. The energy produced from a space reactor also is much smaller but more than adequate for the projected power needs of a lunar outpost.

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