Feeds

China reveals nuclear lunar rover

Heading for the moon in 2012

New hybrid storage solutions

China is planning to send a nuclear powered rover to the moon in 2012 on its first unmanned mission to our natural satellite.

Several technology institutes across the country are competing to develop the vehicle, although there is no word on when the official selection will be made. In what seems to be a bid to get the edge on their competitors, engineers at the Shanghai Institute demonstrated their prototype to the press this week.

The vehicle, as yet unnamed, will roll over the lunar surface on six wheels. Shanghai Daily reports that the rover is 1.5 metres tall and weighs in at 200kg. The paper adds that it should be able to transmit video in real time, dig, collect, and analyse soil samples, and produce 3D images of the lunar surface.

Shanghai Institute director Luo Jian says: "We want it to be better than the early US rovers," according to reports.

The rover will be able to roll at a top speed of 100 metres per hour, and will be equipped with sensors to stop it crashing into things.

Researchers say they still need to refine the rover's ability to withstand the rigours of the lunar environment: low gravity, extreme temperatures, and exposure to cosmic rays are all engineering challenges.

Although the notion of strapping nuclear material to a rocket and hoping it doesn't explode on its way to space sounds a bit risky, it isn't a new idea. The first nuclear powered satellite, Transit 4A, was launched in 1961 and until the Columbia disaster in 2003, NASA had been pushing hard to expand the use of nuclear power in space.

The space agency estimated that the chance of something going wrong on a nuclear satellite launch hovered at around one in 230. In the event of an explosion, people downwind of the launch site for up to 60 miles could be affected by nuclear material, the most serious risk from inhalation of "small quantities of radionuclides".

Once in space, away from handy plug-in chargers, the options for power are fairly limited. If solar won't do it, the only realistic alternative is a nuclear power source. Advocates argue that nuclear power in space is vital for long term exploration projects.

The idea of a nuclear stage for launch rockets was also considered seriously for a while. The numbers never quite stacked, however, and the idea was abandoned. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Chelyabinsk-sized SURPRISE asteroid to skim Earth, satnav birds
Space rock appears out of nowhere, buzzes planet on Sunday
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
Archaeologists and robots on hunt for more Antikythera pieces
How much of the world's oldest computer can they find?
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.