How Mars and the Moon Could Become Your Next Neighborhood

Mars and the moon may be the next out-of-this-world neighborhoods for Americans someday, possibly in the next 10 years.

The Department of Energy wants the private sector to build nuclear power plants that allow us to live in the harsh conditions of the red plant and the orb of the night. The target date for the first: the end of 2026.

A formal request for ideas was sent out Friday for what officials call a fission surface energy system, The Associated Press reported. Energy officials and scientists from NASA and the Idaho National Laboratory, which conducts nuclear research, will evaluate the ideas and settle for a company to work with.

The government is dividing the project into two phases: developing a reactor design, and then building two prototypes, one for testing and one to send to the moon. The construction phase also requires designing a flight system and a landing module to transport the reactor.

Any design should be able to run for at least a decade and generate at least 10 kilowatts of continuous power, well below the roughly 11,000 kilowatt-hours a year that the average residential home uses, the AP reported.

The Department of Energy estimates that several reactors would have to be linked to provide enough energy to the families that take root in the blue cheese.

Right now, the government simply wants a nuclear reactor to boost exploration in the moon’s southern polar region. The agency did not identify a region of Mars.

MarsAlamy stock photo

However, some in the scientific community are concerned that design specifications along with a compressed timeline may mean reactors that use highly enriched uranium, which is also used for nuclear weapons.

“This may lead or start an international space race to build and deploy new types of reactors that require highly enriched uranium,” he told AP.

This week, two counties launched missions to Mars: the United Arab Emirates sent an orbiter, and China sent an orbiter, as well as a lander and scout vehicle. The United States will send another rover to Mars next week.