In preparation of establishing a sustainable presence on the Moon by 2028, NASA is developing new technologies that will let astronauts land, live and explore the surface. In this video, Marc Gibson of NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland describes Kilopower, a power system to enable long-duration stays on planetary surfaces, including the Moon and Mars.
A team of engineers from NASA and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration proved the system in a test called the Kilopower Reactor Using Stirling Technology (KRUSTY) demonstration last May.
This week, the KRUSTY team, including Gibson and Lee Mason, NASA’s principal technologist for power and energy storage, won a Gears of Government President’s Award for the accomplishment.
Kilopower is a small, light-weight fission power system capable of providing up to 10 kilowatts of electrical power — enough to run several average households continuously for at least 10 years. Four Kilopower units would provide enough power to establish an outpost on the Moon or Mars.
According to Gibson, the Kilopower lead engineer, the pioneering power system is ideal for the Moon, where power generation from sunlight is difficult because lunar nights are equivalent to 14 days on Earth.
The power source is designed to handle extreme environments. “On the Moon, Kilopower could be deployed to help search for resources in permanently shadowed craters,” said Mason. “Kilopower also opens up the full surface of Mars, including the northern latitudes where water may reside.”
Building on the successful ground demonstration in 2018, the team is evaluating concepts for a future flight or lunar surface demonstration mission. Such a demonstration could pave the way for future Kilopower systems that power human outposts on the Moon and Mars and enable astronauts to produce fuel, breathable air, water and other materials using planetary resources.
The Gears of Government Awards recognize individuals and teams across the federal workforce whose dedication supports exceptional delivery of key outcomes for the American people, specifically around mission results, customer service and accountable stewardship.