Rolls-Royce has been awarded funding by the UK Space Agency to build a nuclear reactor to power a base on the Moon.
The idea “might sound like the setup of a James Bond film”, said Sky News, but is “part of a very real-world project that aims to see humans living and working on the lunar surface”.
Experts told The Guardian that nuclear power could “dramatically increase the length of lunar missions”, providing enough energy for communications, life-support and experiments.
Rolls-Royce plans to have a reactor ready to send to the Moon by 2029. The UK Space Agency has announced £2.9m of new funding for the project, which will deliver an initial demonstration of a UK lunar modular nuclear reactor. The cash injection follows a £249,000 study funded by the UK Space Agency last year.
Dr Paul Bate, chief executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “This innovative research by Rolls-Royce could lay the groundwork for powering continuous human presence on the moon, while enhancing the wider UK space sector, creating jobs and generating further investment.”
Work on the lunar base comes as humans prepare to return to the Moon for the first time in more than 50 years. “As humanity begins to venture back into space”, said Gizmodo, the “technology that moves us throughout the solar system will be a pivotal part of that journey”.
With dozens of lunar missions due to launch over the next decade, the European Space Agency wants to give the Moon its own time zone and is collaborating with other space agencies including Nasa in a “joint international effort” to determine what a lunar time zone might look like, said Axios.
Across the Atlantic, Nasa recently announced funding for a nuclear-powered rocket that could “cut journey times to Mars from seven months to just 45 days”, the Independent reported.