REALSPACE: NASA running low on power and Japan sets sail.

neorandomizer's picture

NASA does not have enough plutonium 238 for its next Jupiter mission; pu-238 is used to produce electricity in radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTG) when the craft is going to the outer solar system. Passed the asteroid belt current solar arrays do not produce enough power. NASA receives pu-238 from the Department of Energy who was buying it from Russia but there has been a contract dispute on price for about a year. The USA ended plutonium production during the Clinton administration. Congress has blocked attempts by the current administration to restart plutonium production.

Japan announced that its experiential solar sail is accelerating using only the pressure from the sun it is hoped that future long range mission can use this technology to reduce the amount of fuel needed for planetary missions.