NASA plans for another Moon landing by 2025 and to build a lunar base over the next decade or so. One big question is how to power up this facility 238,900 miles from the Earth. An Israeli scientist has a plan to harness the power of the Sun from the Moon.
The space agency is currently in favor of going nuclear rather than solar. However, Jeffrey Gordon, an Emeritus Professor at Ben-Gurion University, told the team at NASA that his plan for renewable energy would be six times better than nuclear fission.
Once NASA begins construction of the lunar base, a top priority is to make life sustainable, which means generating a continuous supply of breathable air, which requires energy. Harnessing the power of the Sun from the Moon may seem like a great idea, but there’s a big problem—the Moon is dark for almost half of its rotation cycle (it faces away from the Sun).
Gordon says that won’t be a problem with his approach. His plan is to generate solar energy but without any storage system. He envisions a ring of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels all the way around the Moon near the lunar pole. Transmission lines would be strung from the panels and connected directly to oxygen generators nearby.
The oxygen produced would not only sustain the astronauts but could be used in developing rocket fuel. If rockets could refuel on the Moon, rather than having to launch from Earth with enough fuel to cover the roundtrip journey, it could be a game-changer in space travel. Travel to Mars could be a reality, and the expense of Earth launches would be significantly reduced. The Moon could become a galactic “gas station” for planetary exploration.
NASA appears to favor nuclear fission at this point in the project, mostly due to the fact that the nuclear materials have a very long shelf-life, and the Moon is in the dark so much of the time that solar doesn’t seem to be a reliable source of energy.
Gordon countered that his plan would produce superior specific power (more kilowatts per amount of material) and it would transmit power continuously (no need for storage in batteries) because there’s no atmosphere on the Moon, and at the pole, there will be light continuously because of the “near-zero tilt of the Moon’s polar axis with respect to the ecliptic plane.”
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