National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center

Powering A Manned Mission To Mars

The website Red Orbit created a video story featuring space nuclear power and Stirling technology.

Powering A Manned Mission To Mars VideoOne of the greatest challenges of any space mission is creating enough power to operate it. While gasoline powered engines suffice on Earth, there are no refueling stations in space.

A potential solution is to harness the power of the Sun using solar panels, or even solar sails. But this is not always possible for various reasons. So researchers have begun designing highly efficient power plants, called Stirling engines, which use the heat from radioactive decay and convert that energy into electricity.

These motors are being tested at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, to see how they will fare in the harsh environment of space. Eventually, these engines will make their way on to planetary spacecraft, and potentially provide the energy needed to create a human settlement on the surface of Mars.