One of the challenges of prolonged presence on the moon or the surface of another planet, such as Mars, is finding the power needed to make human life possible. NASA is reportedly considering building nuclear power plants that will work on the moon and Mars. On Friday, NASA put out a request for ideas from the private sector on how nuclear power could be used outside the Earth in the future.
All ideas submitted from the private sector will be reviewed by the Idaho National Laboratory, which is a nuclear research facility in eastern Idaho, the Energy Department, and NASA will evaluate all submitted ideas for the reactor. NASA says that small nuclear reactors can provide all the power capability needed for space exploration missions.
An industry technical meeting will be held in August to discuss the expectations for the program. The meeting will be conducted by The Energy Department, NASA, and Battelle Energy Alliance. The latter is the contractor that manages the Idaho National Laboratory.
The plan is dual phased with the first to develop a reactor design. The second is to build a test reactor along with a second reactor to be sent to the moon. The program also requires the development of a flight system and lander that can transport the reactor to the moon.
NASA wants the reactor, flight system, and lander ready to launch by the end of 2026. The reactor is required to generate an uninterrupted energy output of at least 10 kilowatts and weighs less than 7,700 pounds. It also has to run for at least ten years and be mostly autonomous. Ten kilowatts isn’t much power; the average home in the US uses 11,000 kilowatt-hours per year of electricity. NASA has stated that it would likely take multiple linked reactors to meet power demands on the moon or Mars.