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Nasa gives go-ahead for nuclear mission to outer planets

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posted on Jun, 14 2003 @ 09:58 AM
An ambitious and controversial mission to explore the other planets of the solar system using nuclear-powered spacecraft has come a step closer after Nasa gave a giant aerospace company the go-ahead to develop revolutionary new engines.

The aim is to build an interplanetary space probe powerful enough to fly vast distances and still to have enough power to collect scientific information and send it back to Earth.

Nasa, the US's National Aeronautics and Space Administration, is giving $6m (£4.3m) to the American company Lockheed Martin to investigate the concepts needed to build such a deep-space explorer powered by a miniature nuclear reactor.

Project Prometheus, named after the Greek god who gave fire to humanity, will concentrate on nuclear propulsion because it is considered the only form of power that can meet the mission's requirements.

posted on Jun, 14 2003 @ 10:10 AM
please don't copy paste news articles, post them in the Xgate section:

ps i already posted this in the Xgate section a few hours ago...

[Edited on 14-6-2003 by Zion Mainframe]

posted on Jun, 14 2003 @ 05:58 PM
Thanks for the info, it actually confirms a more generalized theory that I have been working on regarding the intentional withholding of knowledge in science:

"Project Prometheus will develop the means to efficiently increase power for spacecraft, thereby fundamentally increasing our capability for Solar System exploration," Nasa said. "Increased power for spacecraft means not only travelling farther or faster, but is also means exploring more efficiently with enormously greater scientific return."

This demonstrates that the true measure of our scientific progress as a civilization is directly related to our usage of technology in space. I'm quite surprised we haven't done this earlier.... or at least it hasn't been reported.....


posted on Jun, 14 2003 @ 06:12 PM
wasn't there already one nuclear powered probe that was sent? i seem to recall one. i'll have to do some searching.


posted on Jun, 14 2003 @ 06:21 PM
aha! ok i found the probe i was talking about. it's Cassini. it's still on its way to saturn. it uses Radioisotope Thermal Generators, but i guess it's not nuclear reactor.

[Edited on 14-6-2003 by jra]

posted on Jun, 14 2003 @ 06:40 PM
Radioisotope Thermal Generators (RTGs) are essentially a thermocouple attached to an atomic material, (generally low grade, equivalent to the energy released by a microwave over or less) that slowly decays, releasing a controlled amount of heat. The thermocouple converts the heat directly into electricty.

By contrast, a true nuclear reactor uses a number of highly energetic subcritical masses to react to each other in a classic fission reaction. The heat generated is generally converted into electricity by means of a steam turbine (thermocouples are not efficient for large amounts of heat energy).

Stirling RTG link

The Stirling engine is a candidate for use with isotope power systems. In the references below, Bents et al. (1992, 1992, and 1991) discuss the application of free-piston Stirling convertors to dynamic isotope power systems (DIPS). DIPS could have applications to a variety of unmanned deep space and planetary exploration missions. The RTG (radioisotope thermoelectric generator) is the power source currently available for these mission requirements. The Stirling convertor is able to achieve higher efficiencies at these lower power levels, thus, allowing a significant reduction in the amount of isotope required. Thermal photovoltaic power systems are beginning to sound like a very attractive possibility for isotope power, but are still in an early stage of development.

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