In a significant development, US President Donald Trump has issued a new Space Policy Directive (SPD) which will allow NASA to set up a nuclear reactor on the surface of the moon by 2026 in collaboration with US Department of Energy.
President Trump issued Space Policy Directive-6 (SPD-6), the Nation’s Strategy for Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion (SNPP), which aims at increasing US presence on the surface of moon and Mars too.
“NASA strongly supports the White House’s continued leadership on the agency’s Artemis program, which includes landing the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024. At the Moon we will prepare for new science and human missions deeper into the solar system,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “SPD-6 bolsters the agency’s efforts to develop affordable, safe, and reliable nuclear systems, including technology capable of continuously powering operations on other worlds and propelling future human missions to Mars.”
It is learnt that the top priority of NASA is to mature and then demonstrate a fission surface power system on the Moon. A 10-kilowatt class fission surface power system will be developed by NASA and he Department of Energy and it will be tested on the surface of the moon. NASA is planning to demonstrate the system on the Moon in the late 2020s.
Notably, NASA is also making efforts to advance its nuclear thermal and nuclear electric propulsion capabilities as it wants to use nuclear propulsion to strengthen robust human exploration beyond the Moon.
Meanwhile, China has warned the global community against the US’ plans to set up a nuclear power plant on the Moon. Global Times, which is the mouthpiece of Chinese government, reported that the US’ ambitions may lead to future lunar military projects as Washington aims to emerge as space superpower regardless of the damages it would cause to everyone.
Chinese military experts expressed fear that helium-3, which is present in large quantity on moon’s surface, can be used by the US to produce energy by nuclear fusion. Chinese experts claimed that the US is planning to turn the moon into a production site of nuclear weapons.