NASA astronauts could one day live on the Moon inside a base powered by a lunar nuclear plant.
That’s according to plans shared by the US Department of Energy, which hopes to have the sci-fi power station up and running by 2027.
The DoE on Friday put out a request online for ideas from the private sector on how to build such a contraption.
Dubbed a fission surface power system, the station could help man survive harsh environments on the Moon, Mars and beyond.
“Small nuclear reactors can provide the power capability necessary for space exploration missions of interest to the Federal government,” the DoE wrote in the notice published Friday.
Nasa has plans to put astronauts on the Moon in 2024 – the first manned mission to the lunar surface in almost five decades.
The space agency has said it wants to set up a permanent base on Earth’s rocky neighbour in 2028. The base will help launch future missions to Mars.
Questions remain over what will power the base. Nasa would like to use solar panels, but the most power is needed during the 14 day lunar night every month, so nuclear power is the only practical solution.
It seems the space agency, working with the The Idaho National Laboratory and Department of Energy, is at least exploring the nuclear option.
According to the notice published to the DoE’s website, officials are looking for ideas on how to build a mostly autonomous lunar power station.
Only Molten Salt Thorium reactors would fit the bill.
It should work for 10 years at full power and boast a modular design that allows power units to connect together like Lego bricks.
Would-be designers are asked to whip something up that can survive the surface of Mars without modification.
They can be made very compact and modular