Tuesday, November 29, 2011

No Nukes? NASA’s Plutonium Production Predicament

by Jason Major on November 29, 2011
An empty nuclear battery, circa 1973. © 2011 Theodore Gray (www.periodictable.com)
Mars Science Laboratory, launched three days ago on the morning of Saturday, November 26, is currently on its way to the Red Planet – a journey that will take nearly nine months. When it arrives the first week of August 2012, MSL will begin investigating the soil and atmosphere within Gale Crater, searching for the faintest hints of past life.  And unlike the previous rovers which ran on solar energy, MSL will be nuclear-powered, generating its energy through the decay of nearly 8 pounds of plutonium-238. This will potentially keep the next-generation rover running for years… but what will fuel future exploration missions now that NASA may no longer be able to fund the production of plutonium?

MORE: http://www.universetoday.com/91341/no-nukes-nasas-plutonium-production-predicament/


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