NASA Seeks Ideas For a Nuclear Reactor On the Moon

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NASA and the nation's top federal nuclear research lab on Friday put out a request for proposals for a fission surface power system. NASA is collaborating with the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory to establish a sun-independent power source for missions to the moon by the end of the decade. If successful in supporting a sustained human presence on the moon, the next objective would be Mars. NASA says fission surface power could provide sustained, abundant power no matter the environmental conditions on the moon or Mars. The reactor would be built on Earth and then sent to the moon. Submitted plans for the fission surface power system should include a uranium-fueled reactor core, a system to convert the nuclear power into usable energy, a thermal management system to keep the reactor cool, and a distribution system providing no less than 40 kilowatts of continuous electric power for 10 years in the lunar environment. Some other requirements include that it be capable of turning itself off and on without human help, that it be able to operate from the deck of a lunar lander, and that it can be removed from the lander and run on a mobile system and be transported to a different lunar site for operation. Additionally, when launched from Earth to the moon, it should fit inside a 12-foot (4-meter) diameter cylinder that's 18 feet (6 meters) long. It should not weigh more than 13,200 pounds (6,000 kilograms). The proposal requests are for an initial system design and must be submitted by Feb. 19.

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