On Friday NASA and the Department of Energy put out a joint call for proposals for design concepts for a nuclear fission system to power an exploration of the moon’s surface. If you have an idea they want to hear it.
The exploration of the moon is part of the Artemis Plan, a lunar exploration plan that will send humans to the moon. They are particularly interested in sending the first woman and person of color by 2024.
The project aims to take new knowledge and technologies that have been developed and take these back to the moon establishing a human presence. If this is successful, they then plan to take on Mars next.
Whichever company wins the contract will be heavily rewarded with a budget of up to $5 million. According to NASA, it wants the lunar nuclear plant ready to be launched ‘within a decade’ and they have stated the deadline for applications as being February 2022.
Applicants are advised that the main aim is to create a system that sits on the moon’s surface providing enough power to operate rovers, turn water and other resources into life support for astronauts as well as conduct experiments.
A further condition is that the system must operate independently of the sun as well as being light enough to be shuttled into space once it has been built on earth.
The chosen power source for the project is nuclear fission. This is the process in which atoms are split apart, releasing energy from the breaking bonds that hold a nucleus together. The system must be able to produce 40 kilowatts of power which is the equivalent of enough power to 30 households continuously for 10 whole years.
In a press release, the agencies argued that nuclear fission systems are best as they can operate at all hours and in the absence of the sun. They work ‘ in shadowy craters and during the weeks-long lunar nights’ according to the press release.
Jim Reuter who is the associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate said: ‘ 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.’ He concluded by adding that ‘Plentiful energy will be key to future space exploration.’
NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland will spearhead the project and eligible companies will have 12 months after the application period to develop their original ideas.
The Artemis Plan states: ‘ We need several years in orbit and on the surface of the Moon to build operational confidence for conducting long-term work and supporting life away from Earth before we can embark on the first multi-year human mission to Mars. The sooner we get to the Moon, the sooner we get American astronauts to Mars.’
If you and your company have a feasible idea why not get in contact?