The nuclear reactor being developed by Chinese scientists has an umbrella-like folding design to dissipate the excess heat energy into the surrounding space, while liquid lithium will be used as a coolant, according to The Eurasian Times. However, the functional design schematics for a nuclear power generation system on the Chinese lunar station have not yet been finalized.
Compared to conventional sources like chemical energy and solar cells, nuclear energy is perceived to be the most viable energy source for sustaining life support systems, juicing up the rovers, and mining resources toward long-term exploratory missions, like those planned for the Artemis project. NASA is currently eyeing a system that couples a nuclear reactor with a Stirling engine for future missions to the moon and, eventually, Mars.
But China is not stopping at building an uncrewed lunar station, as that would only serve as the foundation stone of putting Chinese astronauts on the moon. “(We) hope our astronauts will be able to go to the moon in 10 years,” said Wu Weiran, chief designer of China’s lunar exploration program (via Caixin). NASA, on the other hand, is planning to send a crew to the Moon with the Artemis II moon mission, which currently has a tentative launch timeline of 2024.