Story at a glance
- Russia is building a nuclear-powered transport and energy module to move large cargo in deep space.
- The first flight is scheduled for 2030 and will last 50 months, as the spacecraft travels from the moon to Venus and then Jupiter.
- NASA is also exploring nuclear propulsion systems for spacecraft in future missions to Mars.
More than half a century after NASA successfully sent the world's first nuclear reactor into orbit, Russia is moving forward with plans to launch a nuclear-powered spaceship into space.
It'll take quite the spacecraft to travel from the Moon to Venus and then Jupiter over 50 months in deep space. Russia's space agency thinks their nuclear-powered transport and energy module will do it in 2030, reported TASS, the Russian News Agency.
"Together with the Russian Academy of Sciences, we are now making calculations about this flight’s ballistics and payload," Roscosmos Executive Director for Long-Term Programs and Science Alexander Bloshenko told reporters, according to TASS.
The mission, Zeus, will start at the moon, where a spacecraft will separate from the transport and energy module, or tug, before heading to Venus, where it'll deliver another spacecraft and perform a "gravity assist maneuver" before finally reaching Jupiter. If successful, the tug will be the first of its kind in space, allowing for the transportation of large cargo in deep space.
NASA, which most recently tested a nuclear reactor for space flight in 2012, is still soliciting proposals for nuclear electric and nuclear thermal propulsion that could propel a mission to Mars — potentially putting the first man on the Red Planet.
“While NASA’s immediate priority is returning humans to the Moon with the Artemis program, we are also investing in ‘tall pole’ technologies that could enable crewed missions to Mars,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, in a release earlier this year. “We look forward to seeing what innovations industry offer in nuclear propulsion as well as fission surface power via a forthcoming request for proposals for that technology."
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