NASA space exploration under threat as Plutonium-238 depletes

Scientists at National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) may face problem in the future as Plutonium-238 used for space exploration is depleting at a large scale.

The American space agency has with its mission to outer space captured the imagination of million of people around the world but now without plutonium-238, it may not be able to explore the universe in the future.

The reason behind the depletion is that America due to social reason is not able to make any more of the precious plutonium-238 and Russia one of the biggest manufacturers has stopped selling the product because rumors are doing the round that the country is running low in its production of the product.

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The only fuel which is capable of making space exploration possible is produced as a byproduct of manufacturing nuclear weapon. If we look at the other options like solar energy or nuclear power, it’s not feasible as earlier is too weak to power NASA spacecraft for exploration and the latter is considered too heavy to be installed on the spacecraft. On the other hand, the chemical batteries are considered to being unreliable for a space project.

For now, America has only 36 pounds of plutonium-238 left and around 10 pounds have already been used by the scientists for Curiosity Rover that tries to search for hidden answers on the surface of Mars. NASA is seeking to find a solution before it calls off all the future mission. So for this, a power system is being built to reduce dramatically the use of the soon to be extinct fuel.

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Commenting on this scenario, Steve Johnson, a nuclear chemist at the Idaho National Laboratory said,

the truth is we have only had enough to last for this decade, and that’s all we have.

In keeping up with the severity of the situation NASA has already called off its future mission before the government provides for some fund to produce the fuel. The US government will have to take some severe steps in spite of political reason before one stops hearing or looking for answers in the outer space.

If the government gives permission, production will start for new supplies of plutonium; the new product can be mixed with the older one to bring up the total amount of the energy density.