At Bangor University in Wales, scientists are not just thinking big; they’re thinking cosmic. They have developed nuclear fuel cells that, although as tiny as poppy seeds, hold the potential to energize the future habitats on the Moon.
It’s been decades since Apollo 17 touched the lunar surface in 1972. But now, NASA, with its eyes set on the horizon, is preparing for its Artemis III mission, aiming for a lunar landing around 2025 or 2026. And by the turn of the decade, the goal is to have a lunar base established.
This bold vision is not just a dream. The innovative nuclear fuel cell technology, baptized as “Trisofuel”, could very well be the lifeblood for a micro nuclear generator being crafted by none other than Rolls-Royce.
Building Lunar Homes: A Glimpse into the Future
NASA’s Artemis program envisions more than just a fleeting visit. The goal is a lasting human footprint on the Moon, transforming it into a launch pad for further cosmic adventures – Mars being the prime candidate.
The creation of Trisofuel took place at Bangor University’s Nuclear Futures Institute, which has carved a niche for itself as a global frontrunner in fuel research. The institute’s collaboration list is impressive, boasting names like NASA, Rolls Royce, and the UK Space Agency.
The Rolls-Royce’s marvel, powered by Trisofuel, could be envisioned as a compact portable device, possibly the size of a compact car. This device isn’t just for show and tell; it’s meant to hitch a ride on a spacecraft, all the way to the Moon. Prof. Simon Middleburgh of Bangor University shared insights with the BBC on the future testing phase for the fuel, which is set to be rigorous. Testing will simulate conditions of a space launch, ensuring that the devices remain functional even after experiencing the intense forces of lift-off.
Prof. Middleburgh is optimistic, envisioning these launches with a sense of assuredness, “You can launch them into space… and they’ll still function quite safely when they’re put onto the Moon.”
And the applications of this fuel aren’t just confined to space. On our home turf, it could be an invaluable asset, especially in disaster-stricken areas devoid of electricity.
To Infinity and Beyond: Rocketing into the Cosmos
The vision at Bangor extends beyond the Moon. The team is also dabbling with a nuclear system designed to power rockets. Dr. Phylis Makurunje, leading this ambitious endeavor, emphasized the sheer power of their system, noting its capability to offer immense thrust to rockets.
For context, Dr. Makurunje highlighted the revolutionary impact of their system. Currently, a voyage to Mars requires nine long months. However, with nuclear thermal propulsion, this time could be drastically reduced, taking just about four to six months.
This propulsion system is not just a neat piece of tech; it’s the potential cornerstone for humanity’s quest to explore the cosmos, with the Moon serving as the ideal pit stop.
In recent news, India achieved a monumental feat on August 23. Through its Chandrayaan-3 mission, it marked its presence as the first nation to accomplish a soft landing on the lunar south pole. Now, with eyes set on the Moon’s bountiful ice-water resources near the south pole, global space giants are in a race. The goal? Establishing the first fully functional habitat on the Moon.