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NASA wants to put a nuclear power plant on the Moon by 2030

 By the year 2030, NASA want to put a nuclear power plant on the Moon.

Animated photo of colonization of moon
Depiction/illustration of a permanent lunar base by the European Space Agency.
According to NASA, the reactor will help sustain future missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Do you or your friend know how to build a uranium-powered nuclear reactor that can fit inside a 12-foot-long by 18-foot-wide (4 by 6 meters) rocket? Can you finish the job by the end of the decade? If so, NASA and the U.S. The Department of Energy would like to hear from you!

According to a statement from the Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory (INL) on November 19, the laboratory is working with NASA to install a "durable, high-power, Sun-independent" fission reactor on the Moon within the next 10 years. years. 

With a submission deadline of February 19, 2022, both agencies are currently seeking proposals from external partners to undertake this lofty project.

Agency officials said the hypothetical reactor would help turn the Moon into an extraterrestrial base for human space exploration, including future manned missions to Mars.

"Plentiful energy will be critical for future space exploration," Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington, DC, said in the statement. 

"I hope that fission surface power systems will greatly benefit our plans for power architecture for the Moon and Mars and even spur innovation for use on Earth."

The solicitation of proposals comes with some basic guidelines. The proposed reactor should be a uranium-powered fission reactor – that is, a device that can split heavy nuclear nuclei into lighter nuclei, releasing energy as a byproduct. (Nuclear fusion, on the other hand, involves combining two or more lighter atoms into one heavier atom, also releasing energy in the process).

The reactor must not weigh more than 13,200 pounds (6,000 kg), and must fit a rocket with the dimensions listed above. 

The reactor would be assembled on Earth, then launched on the Moon, where it would have to provide 40 kW of continuous electrical power for 10 years. The reactor should also have temperature controls to keep the device cool. 

(According to the NASA and website, the Moon can reach more than 260 degrees Fahrenheit, or 127 degrees Celsius during the day).

The request for proposals comes as NASA launches its Artemis program, which aims to create a permanent human presence on the Moon by the end of the decade. 

The program, which plans to return humans to the Moon for the first time since 1972, has an estimated cost of about $93 billion.

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