NASA Draws on Nuclear Power for Mars Trek

Source:

"The rover will be powered by an advanced nuclear power system, called the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator."

NASA nuclear power
L.A. Times, W.J. Hennigan

NASA nuclear power

Now that Curiosity is safe on Martian soil, the largest and most advanced machine NASA ever sent to another planet needs power to get its 2,000-pound frame moving.

To get it going, the rover will be powered by an advanced nuclear power system, called the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator, developed by Hamilton Sundstrand Rocketdyne engineers in Canoga Park.

The generator is crucial to the $2.5-billion Mars mission, which centered around Curiosity trekking through the Gale Crater toward a central mountain. The rover also needs power for its many instruments aimed at finding out whether Mars is—or ever has been—hospitable to life. Its main mission is slated to last 23 months, or one Martian year.

PHOTOS: History of Mars exploration

Larry Trager, general manager at Hamilton Sundstrand Rocketdyne, said the generator could power the rover for years to come.

"The power source is capable for 14 years even though the mission isn't set to go that long," he said. "It's very robust."

Hamilton Sundstrand Rocketdyne engineers developed the generator in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy. The company said the generator was designed to operate in a range of different environments, from the vacuum of deep space to extreme planetary surface environments. . .View Full Article

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