The United States is one step closer to conquering of the Moon. NASA selected three companies to receive funding for nuclear reactor development. It is planned to be tested on the satellite by the end of the decade.
Among the favorites were space and energy companies Lockheed Martin, Westinghouse of Cranberry Township and IX, a joint venture of Intuitive Machines and X-Energy. Each of the winners will receive $5 million a year to prototype a future energy source as part of a competition under the supervision of the Idaho National Laboratory.
The nuclear power plant will be an important component of the Artemis mission, the space agency’s most ambitious project to date. The large project plans to establish a long-term human presence on the moon, as well as deliver the first woman and the first man of color to the satellite.
The astronauts will live in a lunar base camp, moving around on rovers (spacecraft). The camp will be used as a launching pad for further research into the solar system. A nuclear power plant should be the source of energy that will feed the camp. Unlike solar panels, it will be able to provide energy constantly and be located in cold and dark corners of the lunar surface, which is not reached by sunlight.
NASA estimates that the first lunar inhabitants will need 40 kW of energy. The station must operate on the moon for at least 10 years. Last year, the agency, along with the US Department of Energy, opened a competition for companies that could build a similar system.
“Plentiful energy will be key to future space exploration. I expect fission surface power systems to greatly benefit our plans for power architectures for the moon and Mars and even drive innovation for uses here on Earth,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate.
NASA is also funding other initiatives to help future astronauts survive about 400,000 miles from home. They will need means of substinence and communication with those who remain on Earth.