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Russia Says Working With China for Lunar Nuclear Power Plant

Russia Says Working With China for Lunar Nuclear Power Plant
A full blue moon rises behind the Royal Liver Building and the Liver Bird statues on August 30, 2023 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. In addition to its "supermoon" status (its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit), this particular full moon will be the second to occur in the month of August, the first having occurred on August 1, thus named "blue moon". (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The head of Russia’s space agency said it’s working on plans with China on ways to deliver and install a nuclear power plant on the moon by 2035.

“Today we are seriously considering the project,” Yury Borisov, general director of Roscosmos, said during a Tuesday lecture to students, according to the Interfax news service. The power plant would need to be built by robots, he said.

In 2021, Russia and China presented a road map for building a scientific station on the moon by the end of 2035. According to a Tass news service report, the plan for the project includes technical lunar rovers for research, a jumping robot and several smart mini-rovers designed to explore the surface of Earth’s satellite.

Read more: Russia’s Moon Failure a Dent to Its Space Partnership With China

There is precedent for using nuclear power in space missions and in other remote areas on Earth. The US has used plutonium-238, which has a favorable half-life, as a power source for computers, scientific instruments and other hardware on more than two dozen space missions, according to NASA, while Russia has used other radioactive material to power remote lighthouses and nuclear submarines.

The greater challenge may lie within Russia’s own space program. Roscosmos’s attempt to land a spacecraft near the lunar south pole ended in failure in August when its Luna-25 craft crashed into the moon. The mission was meant to mark Moscow’s return to the moon for the first time since the end of the Soviet Union more than three decades ago, but instead became the latest in a series of setbacks for the country’s space program.

Borisov also said Russia was against the deployment of nuclear weapons in space, echoing President Vladimir Putin who earlier denied US allegations about the Kremlin’s plans for such arms.

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