Living on the moon? Rolls-Royce secures funding to develop nuclear reactor on the moon

Clarification: An earlier version of this story incorrectly linked the reactor's development with Rolls-Royce automobiles. 

As NASA continues its plans to send humans back to the moon, another country will be funding the effort to get humans living and working on the celestial body.

The British manufacturer Rolls-Royce announced its going to be taking its research out of the this world, as the company received funding from the UK Space Agency to develop a nuclear reactor on the moon, which could power a lunar astronaut base.

"Space exploration is the ultimate laboratory for so many of the transformational technologies we need on Earth," George Freeman, Minister of State at the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology, said in a statement.

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Artist rendition of nuclear reactor Rolls-Royce plans to put on the moon by 2029.
Artist rendition of nuclear reactor Rolls-Royce plans to put on the moon by 2029.

Why is Rolls-Royce researching a nuclear reactor on the moon?

Rolls-Royce said it is working on a micro-reactor program to develop technology that will "provide power needed for humans to live and work on the moon."

A power source on the moon would support communication systems, life-support and science experiments while on the on the moon, which would "dramatically increase" the time spent working outside of Earth, the company added.

"This innovative research by Rolls-Royce could lay the groundwork for powering continuous human presence on the Moon," said Paul Bate, chief executive of the UK Space Agency.

Why a nuclear reactor?

The agency said a nuclear reactor is small and lightweight compared to other means of power, and could enable continuous power regardless of available sunlight or other environmental conditions.

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How much funding is Rolls-Royce getting?

Rolls-Royce will receive £2.9 million, which equals around $3.5 million, to research how a nuclear reactor could function on the moon.

In addition to bringing more jobs to develop the research, the company said the funding will allow it to strengthen its knowledge in:

  • The fuel used to generate heat

  • The method of heat transfer

  • Technology to convert that heat into electricity

"This funding will bring us further down the road in making the Micro-Reactor a reality, with the technology bringing immense benefits for both space and Earth," said Abi Clayton, director of future programs for Rolls-Royce.

When will a nuclear reactor be on the moon?

Rolls-Royce plans to have a nuclear reactor ready to send to the moon by 2029.

Future moon missions

The announcement from Rolls-Royce comes less than a month after the UK Space Agency announced funding for companies to develop communication and navigation services for future moon missions.

Meanwhile, NASA on Wednesday revealed the spacesuits astronauts will wear during the upcoming Artemis III mission, which plans to send humans back to the moon in 2025.

Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Rolls-Royce plans nuclear reactor on moon that could sustain life