“Empowering” humans on Mars: NASA

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NASA is testing a space nuclear reactor that could empower future astronauts on the surface of Mars, by energizing habitats and running on-the-spot processing equipment to transform resources on the red planet into oxygen, fuel and water.

Space nuclear reactor can provide a high energy density power source with the ability to operate in extremely harsh environments, such as the Martian surface.

Objective

  • To energize habitats by running on-the-spot processing equipment on the planet
  • To transform resources on the red planet into oxygen, water and fuel and  energy-providing technology a modular option for human exploration of planet Mars
  • To provide a constant supply of power regardless of where you are located on Mars
  • To expand the possible landing sites on Mars to include the high northern latitudes, where ice may be present.

The space reactor and its benefits

  • The pioneering ‘Kilo power reactor’ represents a small and simple approach for long durations
  • The power system (Solar Panel) is sun-independent, and provides electric power for space or extra-terrestrial surfaces
  • Officials suggest that the prototype system would be ideal for further lunar exploration objectives too
  • Testers say that the technical hardware will undergo a full-power test lasting some 28 hours
  • The space nuclear reactor solves the issue of meeting power demands during night hours, as well as long, sunlight-reducing dust storms

How the Stirling works?

  • A Stirling engine uses heat to create pressure forces that move a piston
  • The piston is coupled to an alternator to produce electricity
  • The Stirling engine is similar in some respects to an automobile engine

Way ahead

Scientists will be checking analytical models along the process for verifying the working of the machine, and if it works well, they aspire to use the same technology for space flight development.

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