(ORDO NEWS) — The high efficiency and low weight of the devices, as well as the flexibility of the latest solar energy generation technologies, will allow solar panels to meet all the needs of a long-term manned mission to Mars or even a permanent settlement on the surface of the planet, according to a new study.
Most of the scientists and engineers who calculated the amount of resources required to live on the surface of the Red Planet believed that nuclear power was the best option.
The main advantages of this type of energy are reliability and round-the-clock availability. In the past decade, miniaturized nuclear reactor technology has advanced to the point where NASA has recognized them as safe, efficient, and abundant sources of energy, and has also noted their important role in future automated and manned missions to explore the Red Planet.
On the other hand, solar energy must be stored somewhere to be used at night, which lasts about the same time on Mars as night on Earth. In addition, on Mars, the use of solar energy is complicated by the ubiquitous red dust that settles on the surface and reduces their illumination.
In a new study, scientists led by Aaron Berliner compared these two energy technologies for the case of a long manned mission to Mars, involving 6 astronauts staying on the surface of the planet for 480 days.
This scenario of the mission is the most probable, since it allows to reduce the duration of the trip to the Red Planet and at the same time ensure the duration of stay on it for more than 30 days.
The analysis showed that for the majority of settlements located on an area of more than half of the total surface area of the planet, solar energy was comparable to or more efficient than nuclear energy.
The maximum efficiency in the use of solar energy was achieved by accumulating it during the day by producing hydrogen, which is then used as fuel in fuel cells at night or during dust storms on Mars, the authors note.
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