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Could NASAís Plutonium Problem Could End Deep-Space Exploration?
2013-09-20 0:00

Red Ice Creations

Oh my. Does this mean free, alternative, open source energy options might finally get a chance, rather than being constantly thwarted and buried?

Hereís hoping.

Wired reports on the oncoming plutonium shortage...

NASAís Plutonium Problem Could End Deep-Space Exploration
By Dave Mosher | Wired

In 1977, the Voyager 1 spacecraft left Earth on a five-year mission to explore Jupiter and Saturn. Thirty-six years later, the car-size probe is still exploring, still sending its findings home. It has now put more than 19 billion kilometers between itself and the sun. Last week NASA announced that Voyager 1 had become the first man-made object to reach interstellar space.

The distance this craft has covered is almost incomprehensible. Itís so far away that it takes more than 17 hours for its signals to reach Earth. Along the way, Voyager 1 gave scientists their first close-up looks at Saturn, took the first images of Jupiterís rings, discovered many of the moons circling those planets and revealed that Jupiterís moon Io has active volcanoes. Now the spacecraft is discovering what the edge of the solar system is like, piercing the heliosheath where the last vestiges of the sunís influence are felt and traversing the heliopause where cosmic currents overcome the solar wind. Voyager 1 is expected to keep working until 2025 when it will finally run out of power.

None of this would be possible without the spacecraftís three batteries filled with plutonium-238. In fact, Most of what humanity knows about the outer planets came back to Earth on plutonium power. Cassiniís ongoing exploration of Saturn, Galileoís trip to Jupiter, Curiosityís exploration of the surface of Mars, and the 2015 flyby of Pluto by the New Horizons spacecraft are all fueled by the stuff. The characteristics of this metalís radioactive decay make it a super-fuel. More importantly, there is no other viable option. Solar power is too weak, chemical batteries donít last, nuclear fission systems are too heavy. So, we depend on plutonium-238, a fuel largely acquired as by-product of making nuclear weapons.

But thereís a problem: Weíve almost run out.

ďWeíve got enough to last to the end of this decade. Thatís it,Ē said Steve Johnson, a nuclear chemist at Idaho National Laboratory. And itís not just the U.S. reserves that are in jeopardy. The entire planetís stores are nearly depleted.


Read the full article at: wired.com

READ: Is Free Energy Slowly Being Unveiled?

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