When astronauts move in with the man in the moon in a few years, they’re going to need power. Nuclear energy on the moon. We’ll check it out. Today, on Engineering Works!
When the Apollo astronauts were on the moon, they only stayed a few days at a time, and batteries or fuel cells did them just fine. But now NASA is talking about astronauts staying for weeks or months. Batteries just won’t do it. They’re going to need a long-term source of power for their exploration and scientific activities.
Space experts are proposing all sorts of power sources, from solar panels to king-sized fuel cells. One of most popular ideas is a small nuclear reactor.
NASA engineers are working on an ultra-compact nuclear power plant that should generate enough electricity to run an average American house. Or a lunar exploration base. And do it for eight years. Or longer. The reactor itself is about the size of a big wastebasket. The whole thing would fit into an 18-wheel trailer with room to spare and would weigh about the same as an armored humvee.
Not everybody is convinced sending a nuclear reactor to the moon is a good idea. Protestors objected to launching NASA’s 19-97 Cassini probe, which carried 72-pounds of plutonium fuel. But the NASA engineers are convinced the lunar reactor is safe.
Our reactor is still powered up, but it’s time to go. See you next time.
Engineering Works! is made possible by Texas A&M Engineering and produced by KAMU-FM in College Station. Learn more about engineering. Visit us on the World Wide Web. http://engineeringworks.tamu.edu