Hmmm… There are five working RTGs on the lunar surface, but the plutonium has likely decayed somewhat by now. Also the Apollo 13 plutonium charge is in the ocean near New Zealand.
Couldn’t they just buy some from Saddam Hussein?
We need to find a better way to make power in space than using this stuff. How many lives were ruined and acres rendered unusable in its production?
You mean Iran, no?
Plutonium is not just useful for power, but for un-f-upable local heat sources to keep critical parts from freezing up.
ISTR that if you’re using Pu238, the thermoelectrics break down long before the Plutonium stops putting out enough heat. And Mars? Wouldn’t solar cells work almost as well there as on Earth? Of course the outer planets are a very different matter.
Usually the lifespan of RTGs is set by the overpressure of Helium (decay product) that the widget can support - or at least that’s the case for terrestrial applications.
And yup - sometimes in space it is simply heat, not electricity, that’s needed. Keeping grease warm and other trivial but critical things.
This is the end for planetary visits…there really is no other choice if we can’t use plutonium, and politically it’s impossible. Solar power is just too weak out there. We have enough problems down here anyway.
Using solar cells on Mars is complicated by the fact that it can get extremely dusty. The lifespan of useful solar power in current-generation Mars devices is at the mercy of the weather.
Ask the people of Ferguson how interested they are in space exploration. And since we have no more of the substance that makes deep exploration possible, we might as well direct some of that money from the rich white subcontractors into something more widely popular.
Yeah, i was about to link that too. We should also stop all entertainment services so we can solve world hunger, aids and gun violence. Say goodbye to netflix, jansob!
The political part will be handled by Chinese. While The West is sinking into political quagmires, Chinese are building stuff.
I am not on my good network connection so cannot look things up but it would certainly be nice if they worked on some fuel reprocessing and Pu238 production.
India is also working on the thorium cycle reactors (no wonder with their huuuuuge thorium deposits) of which the Pu238 (okay, Np237) is a byproduct.
Hope it won’t take too long…
Also, there is the strontium-90 option that’s highly inferior to Pu238 for a million reasons, but could be at least considered.
Try the TOPAZ-class nuclear reactors? There are Russian designs that actually powered some of their radar satellites. Not some flimsy RTGs; actual fission reactors.
Not so many on this thing itself, given its production is “for free”, added to the problematic stuff.
And there weren’t that many issues even with fuel reprocessing, if we don’t count the handful of criticality accidents and the Mayak (I think, the one when they mixed ammonium salts with nitrate wastes and let decay heat dry it and then blow it up) cockup.
Colour me naive but I hope we live in a world where it’s possible to both (a) stop the police shooting black teenagers accused of Looking At Me In A Funny Way; and (b) explore space at the same time.
Having written it down like that, it still seems like a pretty fucking modest request. If we can chew gum and walk at the same time, then doing something noble at the same time as refraining from doing something evil seems, at the very least, vaguely possible.
Well, we went to the Moon in the 60’s and 5 decades later we still have Ferguson. Looks like we aren’t capable of both.
I was going to say that the argument that we should stop space exploration because there are other important issues close to our monkeysphere is a silly one. As I’m writing this, I see it’s really more of (and I’m truly sorry for being harsh) an idiotic argument.
Yes, it would be nice if we would solve all our millions of terrible situations. Yes, ending world hunger is an important and noble goal. But are the people making this argument so incredibly simple that multitasking isn’t an option? Have you seen the paltry sums space exploration spends? Compare that to, say, unnecessary military spending. Or imagine what we could do if we were to divert all lobbying money to NASA! Imagine if all the money going to stripping women of their rights went to space exploration? That would be great! But now I’m just rambling.
+1 for Science,
and particularly what Mike said.
How many lives were ruined and acres rendered unusable in its production?