NASA is testing tiny nuclear reactors that can sustain life on Mars

NASA is testing tiny nuclear reactors that can sustain life on Mars

The success of this technology will help achieve the goals that are now unachievable.

A full power test of Kilopower, which uses a uranium reactor not much bigger than a paper towel roll, is scheduled for the end of March, before it is ready to venture out into the stars.

Mason described the system as "very small and well-suited to space applications".

The small reactor, created to have as few moving parts as possible, uses heat-pipe technology developed by Los Alamos in 1963. The engines use heat to create pressure forces that move a piston, which is coupled to an alternator to produce electricity, similar to how a auto engine works.

NASA has been carrying out experiments on Kilopower - a small nuclear reactor that can generate a reliable power stream - to provide safe energy in abundance to carry out manned as well as unmanned missions. "It would have tremendous impact on enabling missions that really aren't achievable with what is now available".

Power is one of the most crucial resources that astronauts would require if they go on a space mission to the Moon, Mars or beyond. One of the most expensive parts of a space mission is launching it from Earth, and lightweight payloads make space missions more feasible.

The nuclear option makes sense on Mars, Jurczyk said, because solar power could prove unreliable on a planet that gets very cold, receives less sunlight than Earth and is prone to dust storms that can envelop the globe and last for weeks.

Australian Open: A lookahead to Saturday, recap of Friday
Halep wasted chances to serve for the match in the ninth, 11th and 15th games, then had to save three match points in the 22nd. Garcia will need to recover from her three-setter to face No. 17 seed Madison Keys, who was a 6-3, 6-4 victor over Ana Bogdan.

"So Kilopower's compact size and robustness allows us to deliver multiple units on a single lander to the surface that provides tens of kilowatts of power", he added.

This isn't the first time that nuclear power systems have been proposed for space missions. The engines present in the Kilopower use heat in order to create pressure to move a particular piston that is paired with an alternator which ultimately results in the production of electricity. But none have proved to be successful enough to seriously consider for human space missions.

The reactor core was provided by the Y12 National Security Complex, with the power system around it designed and developed by NASA's Glenn Research Center in collaboration with NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and the Los Alamos National Laboratory. In a 2012 test, KRUSTY produced 24 watts.

Kilopower could support manned missions to Mars in several ways.

Mason said Mars has been the main focus of their work leading up to this current experiment.

When we imagine sending humans to live on Mars, the moon or other planetary bodies in the not-so-distant future, a primary question is: How will we power their colony? According to McClure and Poston, about 40 kW would be needed to effectively run a habitat on Mars and generate fuel. Any future settlements on a world far, far away will need a bunch of it not just for their daily operations - lights, water, oxygen - but for the return trip as well. The functioning of this Kilopower project is similar to that of a vehicle engine.

Related Articles

  • Government announces next nine Smart Cities

    Government announces next nine Smart Cities

    The 100th proposed city, Shillong (Meghalaya), has been given more time to submit its proposal as it failed to make it in time. UP got the maximum share with three- Bareilly, Saharanpur and Moradabad- out of the nine new cities.
    Mourinho set to extend contract at Man United

    Mourinho set to extend contract at Man United

    Ross Dyer and Shaka Hislop evaluate how an Alexis Sanchez-Henrikh Mkhitaryan swap deal would impact Arsenal and Manchester United .
    Twitter updates total of Russia-linked election bots to 50000

    Twitter updates total of Russia-linked election bots to 50000

    Twitter announced that more Russia-backed troll accounts were active during the 2016 USA presidential election than previously thought.
  • Massive fire breaks out in plastic factory in Delhi's Bawana, kills 17

    Massive fire breaks out in plastic factory in Delhi's Bawana, kills 17

    Plastic factory, cracker storage and furnace oil storage in sectors 1, 5 and 3 in the area were gutted in the flames. Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, "Deeply anguished by the fire at a factory in Bawana ".
    May, Macron reach agreement on border, but not on Brexit

    May, Macron reach agreement on border, but not on Brexit

    He explained: "I mean, I do respect this vote, I do regret this vote, and I would love to welcome you again". The comments were made during an interview recorded for BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday.
    Amazon Nixes Connecticut In Bid For 2nd Headquarters

    Amazon Nixes Connecticut In Bid For 2nd Headquarters

    Amazon found it hard to engage with so many applicants and had to whittle the list to enter the next phase of evaluation. Amazon says it expects to make a final decision about which gets the nod sometime in 2018, so by the end of this year.
  • White House says Trump supports budget deal, CHIP funding

    White House says Trump supports budget deal, CHIP funding

    And that's in keeping with Trump's broader view of working out - which I affectionately like to call the "battery theory". It was a rambling, off-the-cuff affair that was more spectacle than substantial, a fitting banner for Trump's first year.
    Brighton vs Chelsea predictions

    Brighton vs Chelsea predictions

    After their red cards in the FA Cup in mid-week, both Pedro and Alvaro Morata will be suspended for the match. Conte's men have drawn all of their last four games in all competition with three of them goalless.
    India's ICBM 'AGNI-V' To Undergo Another Pre-Induction Test This Year

    India's ICBM 'AGNI-V' To Undergo Another Pre-Induction Test This Year

    The missile has a range of 5,000 kilometers, which means it can reach all of China and even parts of Europe and Africa. Once inducted, India will join an elite league of nations such as the US, UK, Russia, China and France.
  • Nuclear war, extreme weather top list of 2018 global threats

    Nuclear war, extreme weather top list of 2018 global threats

    As companies "invest in things like artificial intelligence, they are widening their attack surface". The report said in 2017 the WannaCry attack affected 300,000 computers across 150 countries.
    Confirmed: Everton vs West Brom line-ups

    Confirmed: Everton vs West Brom line-ups

    Everton had a poor start to the season but after a few wins, they are looking like a much better side. For Pardew, the task at hand appears to be in dealing with the cards he's already been dealt.
    The possibility of a government shutdown was avoidable

    The possibility of a government shutdown was avoidable

    Many agencies already are operating with barebones budgets thanks to years of deep cuts to non-defense discretionary programs. Life under a government shutdown would look much like life every other day - unless you work for the federal government.