Nuclear Power Poised for Re-Entry into Space

With increasingly ambitious missions planned to Mars and beyond, and with solar energy having demonstrated its limitations, engineers and managers inside and outside NASA say nuclear energy may be powering its way to a new dawn in space. It’s a possibility made more likely by recent shifts in U.S. energy and military policies. It’s also a move anticipated by antinuclear activists, who are already planning their opposition to any effort to use nuclear power in space. Fueled by the desire to go farther and faster with fewer dollars, managers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory — where many of the agency’s robotic missions are conceived and carried out — are analyzing how to justify the use of nuclear power in space, both technically and in terms of the benefit to science.