It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
NASA is facing the prospect of trying to explore deep space without the aid of the long-lasting nuclear batteries it has relied upon for decades to send spacecraft to destinations where sunlight is in short supply. NASA Administrator Mike Griffin told a House Appropriations subcommittee March 5 that the U.S. inventory of plutonium-238 - the radioactive material essential for building long-lasting batteries known to the experts as radioisotope power systems - is running out quickly. "Looking ahead, plutonium is in short supply," Griffin told lawmakers during the first of two days of hearings on the U.S. space agency's 2009 budget request.
U.S. industry sources said they had been told that the United States has a total of just over 11 kilograms on order to meet NASA's projected demand through the middle of the next decade. Hill said only that the United States has received an additional 5 kilograms of plutonium-238 from Russia since 2005 and has another 4.9 kilograms on order for delivery this year.
But this special brand of plutonium was a byproduct of Cold War activities and hasn’t been produced by the U.S. since the ‘80s (plutonium-239 goes in nuclear warheads, so naturally we keep plenty of that laying around). NASA has launched nearly two dozen missions over the past four decades that were powered by plutonium-238, including the Voyager probes, the Galileo probe that studied Jupiter and its moons, and the Cassini that is currently doing laps around Saturn. Those missions ran on either U.S. reserves of plutonium-238 or excess stock purchased from Russia. But now neither nation is producing the stuff, and even if we started again today, it would take eight years to build up production to the volumes necessary for annual deep space missions.
Originally posted by Chakotay
Still a false flag
Originally posted by nixie_nox
Can anyone think of a decent alternative means of fuel that can be used?
in the book �Physical Chemistry� by E. A. Moelwyn-Hughes, Pergamon Press, Oxford 1965, page 224. Rutherford and Geiger determined the fact that radium puts out alpha particles at the rate of 34,000,000,000 per second, each having two units of positive charge at 4.5 million electron-volts. This is a staggering amount of energy which ionises the air inside the housing and produces enough power to be capable of replacing the entire Four Corners power complex indefinitely.
Originally posted by Chakotay
There is always a way, and never an insurmountable problem if you are determined to win.
NASA administration isn't.
Miotla also implied that the United States has a larger inventory that it has been willing to tell NASA or the public, suggesting the possibility that the "cupboard is actually more full than you might believe."
Miotla said that it was "not out of the question" that NASA might be able to use some of the plutonium-238 that has been set aside for national security uses.