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The U.S. Plans Sending Nuclear Reactors To Space

While the nuclear energy industry is struggling to stay afloat in the United States, crushing nuclear waste-maintenance costs, and a market flooded by cheap natural gas, the country has grand plans for nuclear power outside of its domestic borders. Way outside. 

In just a few next years from now, the United States will be shipping nuclear reactors to the moon and Mars. According to team members from the Kilopower project, a collaborative venture from NASA and the United States Department of Energy, nuclear energy is just a few years from heading into the space time. 

The Kilopower project is a near-term technology effort to develop preliminary concepts and technologies that could be used for an affordable fission nuclear power system to enable long-duration stays on planetary surfaces. In layman’s terms, the focus of the Kilopower project is to use an experimental fission reactor to power crewed outposts on the moon and Mars, allowing researchers and scientists to stay and work for much longer durations of time than is currently possible. 

While this may sound like something straight out of a science fiction novel or the Twilight Zone, the Kilopower fission reactor has already passed its initial ground tests with flying colors.

NASA’s official stance is a bit more conservative, not providing any exact timelines. Its “Space Technology Mission Directorate” simply states that “the Kilopower project team is developing mission concepts and performing additional risk reduction activities to prepare for a possible future flight demonstration,” adding that the potential of this demonstration would be to “pave the way for future Kilopower systems that power human outposts on the Moon and Mars, enabling mission operations in harsh environments and missions that rely on In-situ Resource Utilization to produce local propellants and other materials.

While this is not the first time that nuclear energy is being used to power pursuits into the final frontier, the Kilopower project is a much more ambitious and powerful project than any of its predecessors.

This model would not produce nearly enough energy to power an entire crewed outpost on Mars or the moon, which will have much more significant energy needs. 

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