The United States of America is seeking to build nuclear power plants on the surface of the Moon and Mars, which paves the way for long-term space exploration.
In the face of that, the United States Department of Energy announced on Friday its request for ideas from the private sector on how to do this, given that nuclear power plants could allow a long-term life in space.
Idaho National Laboratory, the Department of Energy, and NASA’s Space Agency will assess ideas for developing a nuclear reactor, especially as the laboratory leads the way in the United States on advanced reactors, some of which are small and others that can operate without water for cooling, knowing that water-cooled nuclear reactors are the most prevalent on a planet Earth.
The American plan consists of two stages: the first is to develop a design for the nuclear reactor, the second is to build a test reactor, send a second reactor to the moon, and develop a flight and landing system that can move the reactor there. The aim is to have a reactor, flight system, and landing ready for service by the end of 2026.
The plan states that the reactor should be able to generate electricity intermittently to the limits of 10 kilowatts, and the Energy Department says it will likely need several reactors linked together to meet the energy needs on the moon or Mars.
In addition, the reactor cannot weigh more than 3,500 kg in order to move it easily into space, provided that it is able to operate there for at least 10 years. However, the Ministry of Energy indicated that "the goal of the reactor lies in exploring the Antarctic region of the moon," while no specific area has been identified on the surface of Mars to be exposed to date.