Nasa tests nuclear power system

In news

Initial tests in Nevada on a compact nuclear power system designed to sustain a long-duration Nasa human mission on the inhospitable surface of Mars have been successful and a full-power run is scheduled for March.

Objective of this test

Providing energy for future astronaut and robotic missions in space and on the surface of Mars, the moon or other solar system destinations.

Highlights

Mars is a very difficult environment for power systems, with less sunlight than Earth or the moon, very cold nighttime temperatures, very interesting dust storms that can last weeks and months that engulf the entire planet

Nasa’s prototype power system uses a uranium-235 reactor core roughly the size of a paper towel roll.

Humans in Space missions

International Space Station

The International Space Station (ISS) is a space station, or a habitable artificial satellite, in low Earth orbit. Its first component launched into orbit in 1998, the last pressurised module was fitted in 2011, and the station is expected to be used until 2028. Development and assembly of the station continues, with components scheduled for launch in 2018 and 2019.

The ISS is the largest human-made body in low Earth orbit and can often be seen with the naked eye from Earth

Commercial Resupply Services (CRS)

These are a series of contracts awarded by NASA from 2008–2016 for delivery of cargo and supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) on commercially operated spacecraft. The first CRS contracts were signed in 2008 and awarded $1.6 billion to SpaceX for 12 cargo transport missions and $1.9 billion to Orbital Sciences for 8 missions, covering deliveries to 2016.

Journey to Mars

NASA is developing the capabilities needed to send humans to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars in the 2030s – goals outlined in the bipartisan NASA Authorization Act of 2010 and in the U.S. National Space Policy, also issued in 2010.

Mars is a rich destination for scientific discovery and robotic and human exploration as we expand our presence into the solar system.

Asteroid Redirect Mission

NASA is developing a first-ever robotic mission to visit a large near-Earth asteroid, collect a multi-ton boulder from its surface, and use it in an enhanced gravity tractor asteroid deflection demonstration.

The spacecraft will then redirect the multi-ton boulder into a stable orbit around the moon, where astronauts will explore it and return with samples in the mid-2020s.

Orion Spacecraft

The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (Orion MPCV) is an American spacecraft intended to carry a crew of four astronauts to destinations at or beyond low Earth orbit (LEO).

The Space Launch System

It is an American Space Shuttle-derived heavy-lift expendable launch vehicle. It is part of NASA’s deep space exploration plans including a manned mission to Mars.

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