January 22, 2018

NASA Tests Mini Nuclear Reactor to Sustain Humans On Mars

Apart from figuring out the way to get humans to Mars, another big question to ponder about is how do we sustain a long-duration habitat for humans on Mars?


One major concern is providing a power source for the travelers for a long-term stay and to survive in those cold Martian nights. To deal with the issue, the researchers at NASA are taking the nuclear route.

At a Las Vegas news conference, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has announced that they have successfully completed tests on a compact nuclear power system under NASA’s Kilopower project.


“Mars is a very difficult environment for power systems, with less sunlight than Earth or the moon, very cold nighttime temperatures, very interesting dust storms that can last weeks and months that engulf the entire planet,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator of NASA‘s Space Technology Mission Directorate.

“So Kilopower’s compact size and robustness allow us to deliver multiple units on a single lander to the surface that provides tens of kilowatts of power,” Jurczyk added.

According to NASA, up to 4 or 5, 1-kilowatt to 10-kilowatt nuclear fission reactors would be enough to sustain the habitat as these are low cost and compact, lightweight and reliable. The reactors will be used to produce oxygen, purify water, make liquid oxygen and rocket fuel for the astronauts to travel home. Also using the U-235 as fuel and passive sodium heat pipes would provide 10x more power than Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator.

As the tests are successful and everything goes well, then the officials plan to schedule the full-power run in March.


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