Nuclear power is preparing to go beyond the Earth. The US Department of Energy and NASA have signed a new memorandum of understanding. It follows from the statement of NASA that by the end of this decade a nuclear reactor should appear on the surface of the Moon. We tell you why you need to build a reactor on the Moon, how it will work and how dangerous it is.
What memorandum are we talking about?
This week, U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Bruyette and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein signed a new memorandum of understanding (MOU).
In general, the MOU is a type of agreement between two or more parties. It expresses the concurrence of good will between the parties and points to a supposed common line of action.
The last agreement between the Ministry of Energy and the Space Agency was discussed at the meeting of the Energy Secretary’s Advisory Board in October 2020. It supports President Trump’s Space Exploration Directive 1 and the U.S. overall national space policy.
“The Trump Space Directive of 2017
In late 2017, Trump signed the White House Space Policy Directive No. 1, an important change in the national space policy, which provides for an integrated U.S.-led program with partners from the private sector to return a man to the Moon, followed by flights to Mars and beyond.
Representatives of Congress and the National Space Council joined President Donald Trump, Apollo Astronaut Jack Schmitt and current NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson on Monday, December 11, 2017, to sign the President’s Space Policy Directive 1, a change in national space policy. provides for an integrated U.S.-led program with private sector partners to return a man to the Moon followed by flights to Mars and beyond.
The Policy called on the NASA Administrator to “lead an innovative and sustainable research program with commercial and international partners to ensure the expansion of humanity in the study and exploration of the solar system and to gain new knowledge and opportunities on Earth. All of this already allows the U.S. to more effectively organize public, private and international contributions to the project to bring people back to the Moon and lay the foundation that will eventually allow people to explore Mars.
“The directive I am signing today will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery,” then President Trump explained. “This is the first step to the return of American astronauts to the Moon for the first time since 1972 for long-term exploration and use of its resources. This time, not only will we set our flag and leave our traces, but we will lay the foundation for a possible mission to Mars and, perhaps, one day, to many other worlds.
What does the memorandum of understanding mean?
According to the same directive and the NASA Artemis program, America will land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024 and by the end of the decade will have established a sustainable and consistent study of the Moon to prepare for the first human mission to Mars.
“From achieving a better understanding of the moon to providing nuclear fuel for the Voyager-1 and Voyager-2 launches into space, the Department of Energy and NASA have been actively cooperating in our country’s space mission for decades,” Secretary Bruyette said. “This new Memorandum of Understanding will continue our joint work to achieve the next generation of space innovations and research”.
NASA and NNSA engineers lower the vacuum chamber wall around the kilowatt reactor using Stirling technology (KRUSTY system). Later on, air is pumped out of the vacuum chamber to simulate space conditions during KRUSTY operation.
“Artemis depends on a coalition of partners from the U.S. government, industry and the world,” explains NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein. “The experience of the Department of Energy, Science and Technology remains critical to the success of NASA’s missions. Together, we will build and prepare systems to further explore the moon and send people further into space, all for the benefit of humanity on Earth.
The MOU identifies potential areas for collaboration, including scientific observations of the early universe from the Moon. These include the Gateway project, as well as high-performance computing, modeling and simulation, planetary protection from near-Earth objects, sensor and satellite development, space situational awareness, space weather, space nuclear power and much more.
This is the last topic that excited the public. Nuclear power on the Moon? Really?
Why build a nuclear reactor on the Moon?
In September, it became known that later this year NASA and the Department of Energy will be looking for proposals for the industry to develop a compact nuclear power system that can support the long-term plans of the Moon and Mars exploration agency.
“We plan not just to return to the Moon with a man, but to stay on the Moon. This means that we will need energy – nuclear power will be the source of energy, and the lunar energy system will be created for it, among other things. The experience of the Department of Energy and its technologies will be crucial to the success of our missions. Only together will we be able to do everything necessary to study the Moon and send a man further into space for the benefit of the Earth and all mankind,” NASA head Jim Brydenstein said.