NASA is planning to build a base and a nuclear power plant on the Moon by 2026 and is inviting proposals from companies ready to take on the challenge.
According to a statement issued by the Department of Energy, the plan will involve the construction of a 10-kW class fission surface power system to be used for demonstrative purposes. The plant is to be manufactured and assembled on Earth and then shipped to the Moon on a launch vehicle. This vehicle will take the plant to Moon orbit, from where a lander will take it to the surface of the satellite.
The demonstration will continue for one year, and if successful, it could open the door to other missions on both the Moon and Mars.
“Once the technology is proven through the demonstration, future systems could be scaled up or multiple units could be used together for long-duration missions to the moon and eventually Mars,” said Anthony Calomino, head of NASA’s nuclear technology portfolio at the Space Technology Mission Directorate.
“Four units, providing 10 kilowatts of electrical power each, would provide enough power to establish an outpost on the Moon or Mars. The ability to produce large amounts of electrical power on planetary surfaces using a fission surface power system would enable large-scale exploration, establishment of human outposts, and utilization of in situ resources, while allowing for the possibility of commercialization.”
The Moon’s resources, although unproven, have been the topic of conversation for quite some time. Over the last decade or so, several lunar missions have sprung up, seeking to explore the Earth’s natural satellite for minerals and hydrogen.
The nuclear power plant demonstrator will have the capacity to run for 10 years, according to plans, with its generation capacity enough to power the equivalent of three to four large households.