At Moon, Mars, or Asteroids, Which is the Best Destination for Solar System Development? Dennis Wingo discusses the future of space endeavors. Among his very good comments is this:
<blockquote> Thorium reactors can be an export from the Moon to provide megawatts of power for space ships and to be delivered to Mars to provide power on the surface there.</blockquote>
Yes and yes. Dennis shows that he is keeping up with developments on the Thorium LFTR front. LFTRs are Liquid Flouride Thorium Reactors, and they are the absolute future of energy production on the planet. Unless someone comes up with a damned good reason otherwise, LFTRs will replace all coal, oil, gas, and nuclear power plants.
Thorium reactors will be needed in space, on Mars, on the Moon, and on asteroids.
I am jumping out of my skin, waiting for the first Thorium LFTRs to get up and running. Actually the second ones. Alvin Weinberg had one up and running 50 years ago at Oak Ridge. So, you see, this is not a pipe dream. Why not? Because Alvin Weinberg also happens to be the man who invertned the current light-water nuclear reactors, the ones currently used in most nuclear power plants today. If he invented LFTRs and had one running (for YEARS), you can be assured that it is not some pipe dream.
As applied to space, the advantages of Thorium are (at least):
1. Inherently safe, almost unbelievably so.
2. Scalable, down to whatever size is going to be needed on a spacecraft.
3. Thorium is super plentiful
4. It is plentiful on the Moon (so we don’t have to ship it there)
5. It’s energy output is extremely dense
6. It can be used as an energy source for ship’s systems
7. It should be able to be adapted to fuel spacecraft propulsion, in tandem with ion propulsion
8. This much thorium (http://tiny.cc/5ajdzw) is enough for a person’s entire lifetime needs
9. The thorium on the Moon can fuel essentially ALL future extra-lunar flights. No need to take fuel to the Moon.
10. Thorium can actually be used to power lasers and mining equipment on the Moon, Mars, and asteroids
11. IMHO, Thorium in tandem with lasers can be used to ablate asteroids (and probably comets), to steer them away from Earth (or perhaps, in time) TO Earth so they can be mined here, in Earth orbit
12. Thorium can power Lunar ore processing, ore furnaces, machining, manufacturing, and assembly of more Thorium LFTR reactors – as well as building space craft. (This obviates the need to take everything to the Moon from Earth.) I would advocate the design of robotics solely for lunar use (which may or may not be made on Earth).
That list is not intended as as comprehensive list.
Does all of that sound expensive? Compared to using the huge rockets to lift only a few tons of cargo from Earth? Not in the long run.
HiJACKINg a ride on a Thorium-driven asteroid
If 11 is possible, it might, in time, mean that we can use asteroids’ inherent momentum to navigate the solar system – simply by steering them. They are already going over 20 km/sec. Why not use that to our advantage? If we get to one, why NOT hitch a ride on it, and then hijack it and steer it elsewhere? All we would need to do is to supply the side-thrust for steering. If we use the Thorium to power a laser, and aim that laser at the asteroid, the expulsion of material will push it sideways. Not counting the Thorium reactor part of this, NASA already has such a plan high on its list of possible ways of diverting asteroids that might hit Earth. So this idea is just putting the two ideas together for a new use.
(In fact, the LFTR-Laser tandem could be the best way to divert asteroids, in and of itself.)
In this scenario once the hijacked asteroid arrives at another asteroid, if it’s course is steered to parallel the target, the relative speed is already there. Matching speeds is fairly straightforward, and may be minimal. It might not even be necessary to decelerate much at all.
A hair-brained idea? To be honest with you, I don’t think so. Every new technological process or method involves using the inherent advantages of what is available, in the materials and their chemistry and material properties. In space and with Thorium, we are only just beginning to learn what is possible and what we are working with.