Today's technologies allow astronauts to walk in space, satellites to float around Earth and robots to reach the surface of several planets. But astronauts have to turn back. They can not stay on any of these planets, and they can not build bases and posts there. But this would be a big step to the future. And this is what nuclear power could achieve.
Even if nuclear power is seen like a very dangerous energy source on Earth, in space it could mean the solution for settlements. With it, we could produce the right amount of electricity for bases and plants on the Moon or Mars. With a new technology, we do not have to build that big nuclear plants, like we have them on Earth.
According to James E. Werner, the project leader at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE):
“A fission reactor itself is about 1.5 feet wide by 2.5 feet high, roughly the size of a carry-on suitcase, according to Werner. And there are no cooling towers.
“A fission power system is a compact, reliable, safe system that may be critical to the establishment of outposts or habitats on other planets. Fission power technology can be applied on Earth’s Moon, on Mars, or wherever NASA sees the need for continuous power”.
In addition, it is a better energy solution, as sunlight or fuel cells, used today. The nuclear power could produce “40 kilowatts or more of electric power, approximately the same amount of energy needed to power eight houses on Earth.”
The first demonstrations are planned for 2012.