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Hmmmmmm writes: China is developing a powerful nuclear reactor for its moon and Mars missions, according to researchers involved in the project. The reactor can generate one megawatt of electric power, 100 times more powerful than a similar device Nasa plans to put on the surface of the moon by 2030. The project was launched with funding from the central government in 2019. Although technical details and the launch date were not revealed, the engineering design of a prototype machine was completed recently and some critical components have been built, two scientists who took part in the project confirmed to the South China Morning Post this week. To China, this is an ambitious project with unprecedented challenges. The only publicly known nuclear device it has sent into space is a tiny radioactive battery on Yutu 2, the first rover to land on the far side of the moon in 2019. That device could only generate a few watts of heat to help the rover during long lunar nights. Chemical fuel and solar panels will no longer be enough to meet the demands of human space exploration, which is expected to expand significantly with human settlements on the moon or Mars on the agenda, according to the Chinese researchers. "Nuclear power is the most hopeful solution. Other nations have launched some ambitious plans. China cannot afford the cost of losing this race," said one researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences who asked not to be named as they were not authorised to speak to the media.