The US space agency NASA is currently working on a compact sized nuclear reactor which will help future astronauts who will go on a long-term mission on other planets like Mars. NASA feels that its upcoming advanced nuclear reactor would definitely aid people who plan to stay on outside planets on long-term basis. That means the nuclear reactor will prove to be beneficial in the upcoming manned missions to other planets like Mars.
On January 18, NASA informed that it had already started initial tests of the compact nuclear reactor with the aim of carrying out a full capacity test run in March 2018. The name of the project is Kilopower, and it is led by the Glenn Research Center. The tests for the project have started since November 2017 at a Nevada-based space center.
The main aim of the mini nuclear reactor is to help astronauts on other planets’ surface to get access to electricity, lighting, oxygen, and water and also to provide fuel for the long return journey to Earth. Scientists are expecting that the Kilopower will be able to provide 10 kilowatts of energy continuously for at least 10 years. NASA informed through a tweet that the Kilopower project could potentially empower future crewed surface missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.
According to NASA, the Kilopower project is a near-term technology effort to develop preliminary concepts and technologies that could be used for an affordable fission nuclear power system to enable long-duration stays on planetary surfaces. In November last year, NASA tested the reactor core of Kilopower by connecting it to the power system and then performed the end-to-end checkouts. NASA is planning to conduct a 28-hour full power test of the core of the Kilopower in March.
Lee Mason, NASA’s principal technologist for power and energy storage, said that they want a power source that can handle extreme environments in other planets and that is why they are working dedicatedly on this Kiloper project. As per NASA, Kilopower is light and reliable and can be very efficient even under challenging environmental conditions of another planet. On Martian surface, fission power looks to be an ideal solution for the harsh weather and holistic conditions. Hence, NASA‘s Kilopower project can definitely do wonders on extreme environmental conditions in other planets surface and aid long-term stays of astronauts.