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Vintage Space

We Shouldn’t be Scared of Nuclear Rockets in Space

29 Mar 2019, 19:33 UTC
We Shouldn’t be Scared of Nuclear Rockets in Space NASA

A few weeks ago, a spending bill passed by Congress included $100 million earmarked for NASA to develop nuclear thermal rocket engines. In spite of the ever-present backlash to nuclear material, it’s not uncommon when it comes to space exploration. The Curiosity rover is just one of many NASA missions powered by nuclear material, in this case, a multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator (MMRTG) that converts heat from decaying plutonium-238 into electricity. But that’s robotic and doesn’t impact humans, you say? The Apollo lunar landing missions also had nuclear generators on board; the ALSEPs used radioisotope thermoelectric generators to power some of the surface experiments.

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