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LSSW: Going Fission For Power Options? June 9, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in Fission Power, Lunar conservation, Lunar Surface Systems Workshop.

This is the latest in my ongoing series of coverage of the Lunar Surface Systems Workshop, where oodles of new, advanced concepts for NASA’s future lunar base were shown.

Lunar Surface Architecture Status: Part 5

Following the look at Scenario 4 in the presentation, are details of the Scenario 5 option—which is the use of nuclear fission power on the Moon

Scenario 5 is described as being basically the same as Scenario 4, but with fission as the primary power source instead of solar (which to me, seems like it could certainly free up potential base zones).

There’s two options talked about for location of the reactor: have an ATHLETE bury it close (100m) to the outpost:


Or, have the reactor remain 400m away on the lander itself, with a system of regolith fill and bags to keep the system shielded:


Below is the manifest for the “buried” scenario (5.02), showing that the reactor would be deployed in early FY2020.

This manifest also has a significant difference than the one from Scenario 4: it shows operations beginning a full FY earlier, in FY2019! No mention of potential sorties either, and the graphic for the Robotic Assistant appears more current. Interesting:


I’m personally not too hot on the fission option at first glance.  Burying nuclear reactors under the surface seems like it could get out of hand as a precedent—having dangerous material buried all over the moon smells like an environmental disaster waiting to happen, and while NASA clearly would be careful, perhaps later colonists (companies, etc.) taking that lead would not.

Up next is the rather fun-sounding “extreme mobility” option, Scenario 8. Check back soon for that! (And yes, by the way, the pun in this post’s title is intentional ;) )



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