Go to Mars, that’s good. Moving there is even better. But for all this, energy will be needed. Electricity in particular. And as on Earth, the question now is how to produce it. As on Earth, solar and nuclear energy seem to want to pull their blanket. Which of the two will be the winner? Researchers have their idea.
Experts say it over and over again, in contextwhere we live, we oppose and the production of electricity from renewable sources does not make sense. On Earth, however. But now the debate has suddenly reached an unexpected height. With exports to the planet Mars. While most of the engineers who worked on the query had validated the nuclear option as the best alternative, (United States) are revealing today that solar energy could produce all the electricity they needed for future Mars settlers. For extended mission and even for permanent installation on the Red Planet.
Recall that thehas been working for several years to develop microscopic nuclear reactors called . Reactors that can operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And engineers today consider it safe and effective in supporting exploration but also a man from Mars.
LARGE’, presents with some of the same disadvantages as we know on Earth. The electricity produced in this way must be stored if it is to be used at night. And on Mars, dust sometimes shadows the sky, covering everything with a red veil. We remember that by NASA was forced to take a break from one of these storms in 2019.
Energy needs are difficult to estimate
But researchers at the University of California did not want to stop there. To compare the two solutions, they chose a systemic approach. Considering a480 days, including travel time of approximately 420 days. Because they do not know exactly what the energy needs of such a mission will be, the constructed a mathematical model to explore different scenarios. Scenarios that include for example the needs for temperature and pressure control, for the production of fertilizer for Mars, for the production of methane that will supply its propellant intended for return to Earth or for the production of bioplastics.
They contrast these needs with the production capabilities of a nuclear Kilopower and photovoltaic production systems combined with three storage options. Simple batteries, its productiondirectly from photoelectrochemical cells or hydrogen production from . A hydrogen that could then, as some envision on Earth, be used to supply during the Martian night or during the famous dust storms.
Solar energy could be the most interesting
As a result, on almost half the surface of Mars – especially in the equator – solar energy is finally presented as a more interesting solution than nuclear energy. If and only if, however, solar production is combined with a hydrogen electrolysis system.
A matter of efficiency, but above all, of the weight of solar panels. For landing location near, for example, the researchers estimate that the total weight of the built-in solar panels – plus the hydrogen storage system – would be about 8.3 tonnes – for a rocket with a payload of 100 tonnes. -, compared to 9.5 tonnes for a Kilopower reactor system. Enough to possibly consider transporting emergency panels. Something that would not be possible for the nuclear system. The researchers point out, however, that their work is only valid given the flexible solar panels that have recently been developed. Lighter because they do without structures inside or even glass supports such as those that look traditional of our good old Earth.