IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - NASA and Idaho National Laboratory are teaming up once again, but this time it could lead to an entire colony on the moon and mars sooner than you might think.
Some might say it's another big leap for mankind as NASA plans to operate nuclear power on the moon.
''I don't know if I can use those words, but it's going to be a very exciting adventure going forward," said Stephen Johnson of the Space Nuclear Power & Isotope Technologies Division.
After years of working with NASA's Mars rover, Idaho National Laboratory is once again contributing to the design, manufacturing and testing of a nuclear power system in space.
"They typically call it surface fission power…SFP. I mean, it's government so you have to have an acronym right."
But in all seriousness, this is a big deal for space exploration that could become a reality as soon as 2026.
We're talking about a power source that could be used for several purposes.
"It really provides an opportunity if we wanted to do some experimentation, some potentially manned missions to the moon to maybe extract water out of the moon and have it separated into oxygen and hydrogen which would be a rocket fuel, which would be one of those things you might wanna do if you wanted to make the moon a refueling depot to go further into space."
Or astronauts could stay put, living in structures like the ones you see in sci-fi movies.
Human outposts are suitable for entire teams to explore areas of the martian planet that have never been searched by humans before now.
"You could potentially use something like a reactor to create that manned base on the moon rather than just being there in the daytime. Now the daytime there is fourteen earth days long, but the nighttime is very cold and it's fourteen earth days long as well. So using a reactor that would provide enough sustainable power to heat a shelter and provide for the basic needs would be a potential starting point for that sort of utility."
NASA is still working out the details on this massive feat which is why the inl sent out an open invitation for groups and businesses to participate in the research with almost two dozen firms showing interest.
"We're trying to open this up to the creativity of the commercial partners within us. It really provides us with the capability to demonstrate to people if you have that need or idea or that special reactor for whatever use that this is the place that the capabilities are here, both the people and the facilities, the safety bases. All those things are here so that you can come in and most efficiently make use of them and provide that nuclear technology for whatever that project is."
INL plans to release a round of proposals and ideas on how to move forward with the project in the next few months.