The European space Agency has approved funding for the development of laser power system for the lunar Rover. It is intended for those missions, who will work in the regions of eternal night.
The power from the solar battery is standard for most space missions. These batteries are cheap, easy, reliable, safe, and almost all areas of interest to scientists illuminated by the Sun.
The powered by light there is an alternative, resorted to where the Sun don’t Shine or is very dim. Radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) use the energy of radioactive decay of metals, usually plutonium. Not to be confused with nuclear reactors — RTGs is much simpler. There are constantly heated by the radioactive element attached to the radiator. Between the hot land and the cooler is a thermoelectric generators, producing electricity from the temperature differential. RTGs simpler reactors, it is extremely reliable and is able to provide energy to the device for many decades, as, for example, in both missions “Voyager” or “Curiosity”, about which we talked in detail in a material “the Martian”.
Isotopic power sources, however, substantially heavier and more expensive than solar panels. Also plutonium is a dangerous material, access to which is carefully controlled by the state.
Given this, scientists are trying to find innovative ways to provide energy to a space mission, in addition to the two classic. In particular, such methods are necessary for future lunar. On the moon there is day and night, and working now or in the past the spacecraft in solar panels are active during the day and go into hibernation for the night. But at the poles the earth’s satellite, where the Sun falls at a very acute angle to the surface, as there are peaks of eternal light, and the lowlands of eternal darkness. Craters into which the Sun does not look, of great interest to scientists because they are concentrated deposits of water ice. RTGs for research in these areas is ill-suited because its heat can evaporate the water and to prevent its study.
In this regard, the European space Agency allocated money for the project PHILIP: Powering rovers by High Intensity Laser Induction on Planets, “the power of the Rovers of high-intensity laser induction on the planets”. The mission consists of two spacecraft: a stationary food stations, which will land on the crater rim in the zone of eternal light, and rolling of the Rover. The station will set pyatisotletny infrared laser, which will be powered by solar panels. The Rover is equipped with the photoelectric Converter and led Parking lights for accurate positioning. The station will continually send the laser to him and to power the Rover. In addition, the beam can be used to communicate with the Rover.
The mobile device will not be able to get out of the line-of-sight laser platform. However, the landing site is selected in such a way that the research program can be run, not away into the horizon.
With the aim of finding water on the moon, Americans also plan to send a Rover on the lunar VIPER pole in 2022, however, he will not be able to constantly work in the shadows. Side of the moon is better understood than the pole, but the first time it was probed by GPR only Chinese mission “Chang’e-4” last year.