Des chercheurs de l’université de Californie à Berkeley (États-Unis) viennent de déterminer que l’énergie solaire pourrait être la plus efficace pour soutenir l’exploration de la planète Mars. © Sasa Kadrijevic, Adobe Stock

Finally, nuclear power is not the best solution for colonies on Mars

Go to Mars, that’s fine. Better go there. But with all this, it will take energy. Electricity in particular. And also on Earth, the question now arises how to produce it. As on Earth, both solar and nuclear seem to want to pull the blanket on. Which of the two will emerge victorious? The researchers have their idea.

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[EN VIDÉO] Live and work like the moon or Mars
The Hawaii Space Exploration and Simulation Station (HI-SEAS) is a research station installed at an altitude of approximately 2,500 metres, in a dome of approximately 110 square metres, on the flanks of Mauna Loa volcano, Hawaii. Objective: to simulate the life of human colonists who will go to settle on the Moon or on Mars. Not only to understand how astronauts will be able to interact with each other in difficult conditions, but also to develop the most appropriate methods and equipment for living and researching on the Moon and Mars. © HI-SEAS

Experts say it over and over again, in the context Global Warming that we live, we oppose nuclear power generation And generating renewable electricity is meaningless. Down to earth anyway. But the debate now has suddenly taken to an unexpected level. By exporting to Mars. While most engineers who worked on the question have validated the nuclear option as the best alternative, Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley Today (the United States) revealed that solar energy could produce all the electricity that future Mars colonists need. For an extended mission and even for permanent installation on the Red Planet.

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I remember that NASA For several years it has been working on developing miniature nuclear reactors called kilowatt. Reactors can operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. which engineers today consider safe and effective in supporting exploration Roboticsbut also a human from Mars.

L ‘solar energy, it presents itself with a few of the same flaws as those we know on Earth. The electricity produced must be stored in this way if it is to be used at night. And on Mars, storms From dust sometimes obscures the sky, covering everything with a red veil. remember that rover from NASA opportunity It was broken by one of these storms in 2019.

Difficult to assess energy needs

But the UCSD researchers didn’t want to stop there. In order to compare the two solutions, they chose a systematic approach. looking at a Mission to Mars 480 days, travel time about 420 days incl. Because they do not know exactly what the energy needs for such a task are, the Physicists Build a mathematical model to explore different scenarios. Scenarios including for example temperature and pressure control needs for fertilizer production forFarming Mars, to produce methane that will provide the propellant for Rocket Intended for return to Earth or for the production of bioplastics.

They compared these needs to nuclear energy production capabilities, photovoltaic production systems, along with three storage options. Simple batteries, produced byhydrogen Directly by photoelectrochemical cells or hydrogen production electrolysis. Hydrogen which can then, some on Earth imagine, be used to supply it fuel cells During the night of Mars or during the famous dust storms.

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Solar energy can be the most interesting

As a result, on nearly half of the surface of Mars – especially in the tropics – solar energy has finally been presented as a more interesting solution than nuclear power. If and only if solar energy production is combined with a hydrogen electrolysis system.

The issue of efficiency, but above all, the weight of the solar panels. For a landing site nearequatorFor example, researchers estimate that the total weight of the onboard solar panels – plus the hydrogen storage system – would be about 8.3 tons – for a rocket carrying a 100-ton payload. -, compared to 9.5 tons. Ton for Kilopower reactor system. Perhaps enough to consider carrying emergency boards. Which would not be possible for the nuclear system. However, the researchers point out that their work is only relevant if we take into account the recently developed flexible solar panels. Lighter because it works without structures in hard Or even glass supports like those traditionally seen on rooftops From our good old land.

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