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Posted on December 5th, 2017

Reaching Orbit – Juno and Nuclear Reactors in Space

New Image of Jupiter

I’ve written about the Juno mission previously, sharing stunning pictures of the largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter. Since then, Juno has completed nine close flybys of the large planet, collecting more data and images. Recently, NASA released a gorgeous image of a massive storm on Jupiter’s northern hemisphere captured by the Juno spacecraft.

The dark clouds in the image are believed to be deeper in the planet’s atmosphere than the lighter, brighter clouds. These lighter clouds measure about four to eight miles in length and width.

Journey to Mars

While NASA works diligently on the Orion mission to transport people to Mars, they are simultaneously testing the systems necessary to sustain prolonged stays and instruments on the red planet. The Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) is providing funding for the Kilopower project to test sustainable power projects. Instead of looking to solar for prolonged power, they are testing the use of a space nuclear reactor.

Watch this promotional video that tries to make something old sound like something new, lovingly called KRUSTy. (Credit: NASA)

I can only imagine that the lack of meaningful funding has pushed NASA to use existing technologies that are fast and comparatively cheap as a source of power off-planet. Little research and development is needed when it comes to nuclear technology, as they inch closer to visiting Mars. They can package up a mini-nuclear reactor and send it into space. Who needs innovation when we can just make a to-go size uranium-235 reactor core? The new reactor is dubbed the Kilowatt Reactor Using Stirling Technology, or KRUSTy.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t say I love the idea of venturing to new, untouched planets and leaving nuclear reactors in our wake just because our bloodlust to set humans on undiscovered places outpaces our advancement and investment in better suited technology. I’d tell you more, but I’ve inflicted enough sarcasm and snark on you for the moment.

Katie Nelson
Geospatial Ninja
(303) 718-7163

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