Nuke-powered reactor for human settlements on Mars set to fly by 2022

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“We’re excited. We’re looking forward to maybe doing something new”

Dr Patrick McClure

The flight test is the next major step for the reactor, which already passed essential checks back in 2017 and 2018.

While no off-Earth test has been pencilled in NASA’s diary yet, project lead Dr Patrick McClure said it should be ready to go within three years. 

He said: “I think we could do this in three years and be ready for flight.

“I think three years is very doable time frame.”

Nuclear energy has been powering NASA spacecraft for decades as missions beyond Earth consume incredible amounts of energy. 

Designed in a similar way to nuclear power plants on the surface, the Kilopower reactor will convert heat generated by splitting atoms, which in turn will generate a lot of electricity. 

The reactor does, however, have some drawbacks — most notably its weight. 

Research has shown the reactor, along with shielding, would weigh as much as 2 tonnes. 

It is hoped the reactor will have been through further rigorous testing before NASA lands astronauts on the Moon’s south polar region by 2024. 

The team started investigating demonstration missions shortly after the previous KRUSTY nuke-reactor test was wrapped.

Dr McClure added: “We’re excited. We’re looking forward to maybe doing something new.”

It will be the first time since December 1972 that man has visited the Moon. 

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