NASA Is Testing A Nuclear Reactor

Vadim Sadovski/

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While NASA has sent plenty of rovers and probes to Mars, one of the agency's ultimate goals is to send a manned mission to Mars. While that likely won't be possible until the 2030s, NASA is working on preparations like figuring out how to power the mission.

While getting to Mars will burn a ton of fuel, creating a habitat on the planet will also take a lot of energy. There's also the problem of eventually getting back to Earth. Fuel is incredibly heavy and instead of lugging it to Mars, NASA has teamed up with the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Energy Department to develop a system that could generate power on Mars.

The system, known as Kilopower, is a small nuclear reactor that can generate a reliable power supply for astronauts. It can generate different amounts of power, from 1 kilowatt, which is enough to power a toaster, to 10 kilowatts, which would be enough to power an entire habitat.

"Power is the lifeblood of our exploration and expansion into space," said David Poston, chief reactor designer at Los Alamos.

Testing initially began in November 2017 and the team plans to conduct a full test in March 2018.

To learn more, check out the video below from Los Alamos National Laboratory: