NASA Hoping to Build Nuclear Power Plant on the Moon

By the end of the decade, NASA hopes to have a nuclear reactor on the moon. Friday, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced plans to begin accepting bids for the project over the next year. NASA, along with the United States Department of Energy, will work with American companies on crafting a fission surface power system that NASA officials and crafts can use as the outfit continues to explore space—including the eventuality of taking humans to Mars.

According to a release distributed by NASA and the DOE, the system should be capable of "autonomous operation" from the deck of a lunar lander or a similar craft. The system would be built to provide power to other rovers, astronauts conducting experiments on the surface of the moon, or other means that support life.

"NASA and the DOE are collaborating on this important and challenging development that, once completed, will be an incredible step towards long-term human exploration of the Moon and Mars," said Fission Surface Power Project Manager Todd Tofil at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. "We'll take advantage of the unique capabilities of the government and private industry to provide reliable, continuous power that is independent of the lunar location." 

The bidding process will take the next 12 months as companies submit potential designs that could be used.

"Plentiful energy will be key to future space exploration," said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) added. "I expect fission surface power systems to greatly benefit our plans for power architectures for the Moon and Mars and even drive innovation for uses here on Earth."