Today, NASA will publically discuss the most recent experiment of its ongoing Kilopower reactor project in Cleveland. The Glenn Research Center’s nuclear reactor, started in 2015 as part of the Game Changing Development program, may be able to sustain life on Mars.
Kilopower engineers predict the reactor will be capable of producing a maximum of 10 kilowatts of electrical power for 10 years through converting uranium, which is nearly 3 million times more efficient than burnable coal, into electricity. Harnessing uranium’s energy potential would thus be remarkably efficient for a space reactor, a quality necessary for enduring Mars’ and the Moon’s severe environmental conditions during exploratory missions.
Though funding and staying on schedule are inevitable challenges, completion of this project would make the US the first to produce a sustainable power source technology that could support long-term human instalment on Mars. Advancements in the Kilopower project will likely incite competitive countries such as Russia and China to expedite production of comparable technology such as lasers bringing electric energy to the Moon and heavy rockets, especially following SpaceX’s launch of the Falcon Heavy. Until then, the US may leap much further ahead as the leader in space technology.
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Bibi contributes to our analysis of European affairs for The Daily Brief. She also serves as a copy editor for the publication.