Posts Tagged ‘power’

Nukes in space?

May 20, 2020

To safely explore the solar system and beyond, spaceships need to go faster—nuclear-powered rockets may be the answer

An artist’s impression of what a nuclear thermal ship built to take humans to Mars could look like.John Frassanito & Associates/Wikipedia

With dreams of Mars on the minds of both NASA and Elon Musk, long-distance crewed missions through space are coming. But you might be surprised to learn that modern rockets don’t go all that much faster than the rockets of the past.

There are a lot of reasons that a faster spaceship is a better one, and nuclear-powered rockets are a way to do this. They offer many benefits over traditional fuel-burning rockets or modern solar-powered electric rockets, but there have been only eight U.S. space launches carrying nuclear reactors in the last 40 years.

However, last year the laws regulating nuclear space flights changed and work has already begun on this next generation of rockets.


Going nuclear on the moon and Mars

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

It might sound like science fiction, but scientists are preparing to build colonies on the moon and, eventually, Mars. With NASA planning its next human mission to the moon in 2024, researchers are looking for options to power settlements on the lunar surface. According to a new article in Chemical & Engineering News, the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, nuclear fission reactors have emerged as top candidates to generate electricity in space.

When it comes to powering an astronauts’ settlement, there are many factors to consider, writes correspondent Tien Nguyen in collaboration with ACS Central Science. The power source must be capable of being transported safely from Earth and of withstanding the harsh conditions of other worlds. Past space missions have used solar power as a scalable and renewable source of electricity, but the dark craters of the moon or the dusty surface of Mars may not offer enough light. The limited lifespans of battery and fuel cell technologies typically relegate them to backup options. Nuclear devices that run on decaying plutonium-238 have been used to power spacecraft since the 1960s, including Mars rovers and the space probes Voyager and Cassini, but they don’t provide enough energy for a settlement. In contrast, nuclear fission reactors that split uranium-235 atoms, which are used by power plants here on Earth, could provide a reliable power source for a small space settlement for several years, scientists estimate.

Despite funding and design setbacks, researchers are reinvigorating efforts to create a nuclear reactor for space travel and settlement.


Sun power makes steam

December 11, 2018

Full steam ahead

The researchers first tested the structure by running experiments in the lab, using a solar simulator that mimics the characteristics of natural sunlight at varying, controlled intensities. They found that the structure was able to heat a small basin of water to the boiling point and produce superheated steam, at 122 C, under conditions that simulated the sunlight produced on a clear, sunny day. When the researchers increased this solar intensity by 1.7 times, they found the device produced even hotter steam, at 144 C.

On Oct. 21, 2017, they tested the device on the roof of MIT’s Building 1, under ambient conditions. The day was clear and bright, and to increase the sun’s intensity further, the researchers constructed a simple solar concentrator—a curved mirror that helps to collect and redirect more sunlight onto the device, thus raising the incoming solar flux, similar to the way a magnifying glass can be used to concentrate a sun’s beam to up a patch of pavement.

Photograph of the contactless solar evaporation structure operating on the roof of MIT in October 2017. A non-tracking solar concentrator allows steam temperatures as high as 146 °C to be achieved even in autumn months.

With this added shielding, the structure produced steam in excess of 146 C over the course of 3.5 hours. In subsequent experiments, the team was able to produce steam from sea water, without contaminating the surface of the device with salt crystals. In another set of experiments, they were also able to collect and condense the steam in a flask to produce pure, distilled water.

Chen says that, in addition to overcoming the challenges of contamination, the ‘s design enables steam to be collected at a single point, in a concentrated stream, whereas previous designs produced more dilute spray.

“This design really solves the fouling problem and the steam collection problem,” Chen says. “Now we’re looking to make this more efficient and improve the system. There are different opportunities, and we’re looking at what are the best options to pursue.”


MOTT p214

November 26, 2014

“Unfortunately, the truth is that the majority of humanity simply lets itself go and lives in a state of uncontrolled vexation.  Uncountable human beings are driven by uncontrolled, ungoverned sorrow as well as by untamed passions, desires and bad habits, and so forth, whereby also anxiety, fear and doubt surge and abate and, with malicious turbulence, form the life.

This majority of human beings stands in contrast to only a few really wise ones- a handful of knowledgeable ones who, as the absolute minority, take on the responsibility for the continued certainty of the progress and existence of the Earth human beings.

Since time immemorial the destiny of humanity has lain in their hands and in the might of their thoughts, as it also does for all of the future.  But, unfortunately, there are only a few of them, which is why there exists the absolute requirement that the human beings of the great mass wake up and begin to think and to act with the minority of knowledgeable and wise ones, so that a conscious evolution can take hold collectively.

But, to that end, it is necessary that the individual in the entire mass of humanity begins to think clearly and consciously creates, by means of the might of the thoughts, all that which leads to peace, freedom, gladness, love, knowledge and wisdom, from which finally, as special values, equanimity and inner, all-penetrating cheerfulness emerge.

But only human beings who are able to control, keep pure and use their thoughts and the might of their thoughts in neutral-positive-equalized form, subject the winds and storms of their unchecked, untamed and uncontrolled desires, wishes, passions, habits and other terrible things, to a consciously controlled obedience.

Therefore, all human beings who are negatively buffeted about by storms, be advised, regardless of wherever and whatever you are and under whatever conditions and circumstances you live: do not ever allow yourselves to drift on the ocean of the life, rather take the helm in hand and steer that ship of the life to solid ground.  Always hold the helm firm in your hands and do not let any waves rip it away from you.  But the thoughts are the ship of the life, and the helm is the kind and wise in which the thoughts are determined and the might by means of which they are brought to fruition.

On the ship of life, every single human being is his/her own captain, who must not sleep, who rather must always be awake and control and steer everything.  But that means that a considerable self-control has to be present in the captain of one’s own ship of life, because it is the strength which leads to the thoughts being correctly managed and their might being correctly used, and indeed with the greatest mastery.  Thoughts themselves are mastery, calmness, peace, freedom and might, when they are nurtured and used in the correct form.”

BEAM,  MOTT p214-216

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