After all, nuclear power is not the best solution for colonies on Mars

Go to Mars, that’s good. Moving is even better. But all of this requires energy. electricity in particular. And like on earth, now the question is how to make it. As on Earth, the sun and nuclear energy each seem to want to pull the blanket over themselves. Which of the two will emerge victorious? The researchers have their idea.

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[EN VIDÉO] Live and work like on the moon or on Mars
The Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) is a research station installed at an altitude of approximately 2,500 meters in a dome of approximately 110 square meters on the flanks of the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii. The goal: to simulate the life of human colonists who will settle on the moon or Mars. Not only to understand how astronauts can interact with each other in difficult conditions, but also to develop the most suitable methods and devices for life and research on the Moon and Mars. © HI SEAS

The experts keep saying it in connection with the global warming that we live, contradict nuclear power generation and renewable power generation makes no sense. On earth anyway. But now the debate has suddenly reached an unexpected climax. By exporting to the planet Mars. While most of the engineers who worked on this question had confirmed the nuclear option as the best alternative, Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley (United States) announce today that solar arrays could produce all the electricity that future colonists of Mars would need. For a longer mission and even permanent installation on the Red Planet.

Recall that the NASA has been working on the development of so-called miniature nuclear reactors for several years kilowattage. Reactors that can operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And which engineers today consider safe and effective in aiding exploration roboticsbut also people from Mars.

L’solar power, it presents some of the same disadvantages as those we know on Earth. The electricity produced in this way must be stored if it is to be used at night. And on Mars storms Dust sometimes darkens the sky, covering everything with a red haze. We remember that rover from NASA opportunity was forced into hiatus by one of these storms in 2019.

Difficult to estimate energy demand

But researchers at the University of California didn’t want to leave it at that. To compare the two solutions, they opted for a systemic approach. Considering a Mission to Mars of 480 days, travel time of approx. 420 days included. They don’t know exactly how much energy such a mission will require physicist created a mathematical model to study different scenarios. Scenarios include, for example, the need for temperature and pressure control, for the production of fertilizers for theAgriculture Mars, for the production of methane, which will provide the fuel for the rocket destined for return to earth or for the production of bioplastics.

They compared these requirements with the generation options of a nuclear kilopower and photovoltaic generation systems coupled with three storage options. Simple batteries, a production ofhydrogen directly by photoelectrochemical cells or by hydrogen generation electrolysis. A hydrogen that, as some on Earth imagine, could then be used to supply fuel cells during the Martian night or during the famous dust storms.

Solar energy might be the most interesting

As a result, on almost half of the surface of Mars – particularly in the equatorial regions – solar energy is finally being presented as a more interesting solution than nuclear energy. However, only if the solar production is coupled with a hydrogen electrolysis plant.

A question of efficiency, but above all of the weight of the solar panels. For a landing pad near theequatorFor example, the researchers estimate that the total weight of the onboard solar panels – plus the hydrogen storage system – would be about 8.3 tons – for a rocket with a 100-ton payload – compared to 9.5 tons for a Kilopower reactor system. Enough to possibly consider carrying emergency panels. Which would not be possible for the nuclear system. However, the researchers point out that their work is only valid if we take into account recently developed flexible solar panels. Lighter because they don’t need any structures stole or even glass supports as traditionally seen roofs our good old earth.

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