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Russia and China to set up a nuclear power plant on the Moon


Russia and China get set to test the fabled frontiers of space

By Tirthankar Mitra

Asking for the moon ceased to denote seeking the impossible ever since the first man landed on earth's sole god-made satellite in the year 1969, it didn't matter whether it was a “blue moon” or a “hunter's moon.” What had been a giant leap for mankind is now going to take several steps ahead with the drawing up of the blueprint of setting up a nuclear outpost on the soil of the “Queen of the Night”. A nuclear power plant is likely to come up by the mid-2030s, a collaboration between Russia and China to lay the groundwork for a potential lunar settlement, said Yuri Borisov who heads ‘Roscosmos', Russia's space agency.

Limitations of solar panels in meeting the energy demands of future lunar habitats has necessitated the setting up of a lunar nuclear power plant, Borisov informed. It raises both awe and concern. The ambition is remarkable but the challenges and risks associated with nuclear is a slight dampener which cannot be ignored. Human presence will be dispensed with during the building-up stage of the project, the decision underscoring the potential hazards.

In the backdrop of these ambitious plans, the geopolitical context surrounding the space activities has to be taken into consideration. The collaboration between Russia and China in lunar exploration has become strategic endeavours when China has plans to land its first astronaut on the moon before 2030. Naturally, the United States has expressed concerns, and it is about “militarisation of space”.

The building of a nuclear outpost on the moon demands meticulous planning and cooperation. It must coexist with environmental responsibility. Apart from the nuclear outpost on the lunar surface, a nuclear-power Russian cargo spaceship is also on the cards. Before such a project is given the green-light, safety concerns must be thoroughly addressed as the space littered with nuclear debris poses environmental and safety concerns.

It will be a cyclopean space tugboat fuelled by a nuclear reactor. High power turbines will be add-ons to the power supply system. The failure of Luna-25 spacecraft raised questions both about the feasibility and timeline of the proposed project. Yet there is a resilient determination to continue to push the boundaries of space exploration.

It is a bold leap towards space exploration. The coming together of Russia and China opens up hopes in nations which may follow the trajectory of their journey to space. It will focus on the hitherto unexplored. The endeavour in finding partners in exploring new frontiers in space is welcome for it is a voyage in which the moon may be another port of call although an important one.

Only time will reveal the true extent of the risks and rewards such voyages will invite and fetch after their cosmic sojourn. In so many words, the human race is about to take a giant leap forward to explore the destiny of mankind beyond earth. One must not cheer too soon, though. For it takes seconds for a leap to turn into a gamble as the watches with bated breath, and nervous trepidation. IPA




The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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