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NASA’s Plutonium Problem -

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NASA’s Plutonium Problem Could End Deep-Space Exploration

quote:

"None of this would be possible without the spacecraft’s three batteries filled with plutonium-238. In fact, Most of what humanity knows about the outer planets came back to Earth on plutonium power. Cassini’s ongoing exploration of Saturn, Galileo’s trip to Jupiter, Curiosity’s 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 metal’s radioactive decay make it a super-fuel. More importantly, there is no other viable option. Solar power is too weak, chemical batteries don’t 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 there’s a problem: We’ve almost run out.

“We’ve got enough to last to the end of this decade. That’s it,” said Steve Johnson, a nuclear chemist at Idaho National Laboratory. And it’s not just the U.S. reserves that are in jeopardy. The entire planet’s stores are nearly depleted.

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/09/plutonium-238-problem/

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Geeez I hope they can figure it out

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Geeez I hope they can figure it out

Hopefully they will find a way to continue though, fingers crossed anyway! But it is a surprising story that Id never thought Id hear

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Yeah, good article, especially if one does a full read. I didn't know half the stuff they discussed.

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Are we now feeling the weight of humanity? I have wondered when that time would come that resources become focused on simply sustaining the growing number of humans on this planet. Does a civilization have but a brief moment in time to explore and colonize regions beyond?

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Maybe Iran will sell us some, wink, wink.

I remember when Cassini was launched, a local (liberal) college held a midnight cry-in/whine-a-thon because it was fueled with plutonium. Well, personally I have enjoy the photos of Saturn, but you can't please everyone.

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