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Northern White Rhinoceros Angalifu

Scientists fertilise 7 eggs of northern white rhino in an effort to save the species

As Silvia Colleoni injected liquid into a micropipette for inserting the frozen sperm which had been removed from one of the last remaining male northern white rhinos, her hand trembled. She explained the cause of being emotional as it is a manual task and her work could determine if the species would continue to live or get extinct. The artificial fertilization of eggs from the last two remaining females was performed in the Avantea Laboratory in North Italy. The fertilisation process could result in the creation of seven embryos. 

The entire procedure was filmed by the Associated Press who had exclusive access to the laboratory. Eggs were separated from the last remaining female northern white rhinos, Fatu and Najin. Then they were fertilised from the frozen sperms separated from males who were already dead. After 10 days, the result will be out if embryos were formed from the eggs or not. Experts are hoping for the reproduction to be carried through surrogacy as neither of the two females can get pregnant now. 

The process is very strenuous and involves a lot of concentration as joysticks are used to guide the process of fertilisation. For increasing the chances of success, an electronic impulse is also sent. Cesare Galli, founder of Avantea said that they expect for the formation of embryos from some of them as the ultimate goal is to produce a minimum of five animals who would be returned to their natural habitat in Africa. But achieving this could take several decades. 

Avantea reported that only seven from ten eggs which were extracted from the females in Kenya were fit for the process of artificial insemination. The sperm was extracted from northern white bulls, Suni and Saut who lived in a Czech Republic zoo. They are now dead. Their sperm was used to increase the chances of success, as Suni is the half-sibling of Najin. However, it was difficult to work with Saut’s sperm. Galli stated that for greater chances to facilitate the continuation of a species it is better not to wait till the last two individuals of a species are remaining. The last living male rhino was 45-year-old Sudan who was listed in the dating app Tinder and mentioned the “Most Eligible Bachelor” in an attempt to raise funds. However, he was later euthanized for age-related complications. 

His sperm is still in Kenya, as in the future if it is possible to create more embryos then his sperm could be transferred. Northern white rhinos have decreased in population due to excessive poaching for several decades. Other types such as southern white rhino and black rhino are also targeted for their horns which are sold illegally in Asian markets. 

Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research situated in Germany, Avantea, Dvur Kralove Zoo in Czech Republic are some of the organisations trying to save the northern white rhino species. 

quantum teleportation qubit

Researchers successfully achieve complex quantum teleportation for the first time

For the first time, researchers from Austria and China have managed to teleport three dimensional quantum states. This teleportation of higher dimensional states might play an important role in quantum computers in the coming days.

Scientists from the University of Vienna and the Austrian Academy of Sciences have demonstrated what was previously thought of as only a theoretical possibility. With the scientists from the University of Science and Technology of China, they were able to teleport complex high-dimensional quantum states. This is reported in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Scientists teleported the quantum state of a qutrit to another distant one. Earlier scientists were able to transport qubits, which have only two-level states. But scientists have now successfully teleported a qutrit which was created from the photon and has three-level states.

Since the 1990s, it was known that multidimensional quantum teleportation can be achieved. Manuel Erhard, Vienna Institute for Quantum Optics said that the first step was to design a technique to implement high-dimensional teleportation along with the technology. To teleport a quantum state, it is encoded in the possible paths which can be taken by the photon. Paths can be correlated to three optical fibers. Interestingly, in quantum physics, one photon might be present in all the fibres at once.

Bell measurement is at the core of quantum teleportation. A multiport beam splitter is used that directs photons with the help of many inputs and outputs thereby connecting the optical fibers. Also, auxiliary photons were used which were sent to the multiple beam splitter for interfering with other photons.

By selecting specific interference patterns, quantum information can be sent to a photon situated far away from input photon, without them interacting. This concept can be extended to as many dimensions as possible.

By achieving this, the research team has demonstrated that a quantum internet can be created in the future by transmitting large amounts of information. Anton Zeilinger, a scientist at Austrian Academy of Sciences and the University of Vienna said that the result will help in the connection of quantum computers having information capacities greater than qubits.

Chinese researchers also find immense potential in the field of multidimensional quantum teleportation. Jian-Wei Pan, University of Science and Technology of China said that their research will be the foundation for a quantum network system that can be built in the future. Pan presented his points at the University of Vienna and the Academy recently.

Quantum physicists in the future will also try to demonstrate the teleportation of the entire quantum state of one photon or atom.

Research Paper: Quantum Teleportation in High Dimensions

main exoplanet

Researchers develop images to understand how Earth might look to aliens

In the last ten years, 4000 exoplanets which we currently know were discovered. In this period, the process shifted gradually from discovery to characterisation. In the future, advanced equipments will help to know more about the surfaces and atmospheres of exoplanets. 

Scientists raised a question about what an advanced species would see while studying the planet. Researchers from Caltech constructed a map of what Earth would appear to alien observers with the help of Earth’s multi-wavelength data. It would also serve in studying about the surface features of exoplanets similar to Earth in the future. 

The study titled “Earth as an Exoplanet: A Two-dimensional Alien Map” appeared in Science Mag journal. It is led by Siteng Fan and several scientists from Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology and Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA.

2d surface map of earth

A 2D surface map of the Earth treated as a proxy exoplanet. S Fan et al/California Institute of Technology/arXiv

For finding potentially habitable planets out of Solar System, scientists cannot observe the exoplanets directly, to understand their atmosphere and surface features. So they have to only work with the indications which show that a planet is similar to Earth. 

Fan said that the present exoplanet studies have not set the minimum requirements for habitability. Researchers are not sure about whether the proposed criteria are either sufficient or necessary. Besides this, the observation techniques are not enough to confirm the habitability. 

As right now we know that life exists only on Earth, scientists theorized that remotely observing our planet might act as a proxy for what a habitable exoplanet might look like to an alien civilisation. The water cycle is one of the major elements of the climate on Earth and it consists of three phases. They are water vapour in the atmosphere, clouds consisting of condensed water and water bodies on the surface of Earth.

So their presence might be considered as indications of life and habitability which could be detected from a distance. To obtain Earth’s view to foreign observers, researchers compiled 9740 images that were taken every 68 to 110 minutes in 2016 and 2017 by Deep Space Climate Observatory of NASA. They were able to capture the light reflected from the atmosphere of Earth at different wavelengths. 

Images were then combined to create a 10-point reflection spectrum plotted against time, integrated over Earth’s surface. This created what Earth might look like to someone who observed Earth from several light years away for a period of two years. 

Fan said that the second principal component of the light curve of Earth is related to the fraction of land of the illuminated hemisphere. The reconstruction of the map translated to a problem of linear regression. So the team found the curve parameters for land and clouds after analysis of the resulting curves and comparing with the original images. They identified those parameters related to the land and adjusted it to Earth’s rotation which generated a contour map.

Black lines represent the surface feature and correspond to the coastlines of the continents which are coloured in green to roughly represent the continents. Red denotes the shallow sections of the ocean with blue depicting the deeper areas. These representations would help the scientists to understand if an exoplanet contained oceans, ice caps and clouds. Variation of life curve is dominated by clouds, land and oceans which are important for life on Earth. 

In the future, instruments such as James Webb Space Telescope would help in carrying out detailed exoplanet surveys. Ground-based instruments such as Extremely Large Telescope, Thirty Meter Telescope would carry out direct imaging of planets that orbit close to their stars. With all these advancements, researchers would be able to properly determine which exoplanets are habitable and soon find the next Earth. 

Journal Reference: Science Mag

Soyuz TMA 7 spacecraft

Humanoid robot, Skybot F-850 to be the commander of a Soyuz spacecraft

The Russian Soyuz spacecraft will be carrying a humanoid robot as the commander of the capsule when it leaves for the International Space Station.

The robot named Skybot F-850 is one of the latest models of FEDOR robots from Russia that have been developed to serve as a stand-in for humans for tasks such as driving cars. And not only it is going to enter into space; for the first time, a robot will be in the position of commanding a spacecraft – Soyuz. It will be monitoring spacecraft conditions during the uncrewed flight as it leaves the atmosphere and enters the land of zero gravity.

The development of FEDOR robots started in 2014. This Skybot F-850 is made from materials which can withstand the operating conditions in space. To make sure that the ISS is not damaged in any way, its actions have been intentionally limited and is controlled by special movement algorithms. With the help of AI, Skybot can function independently or it can also be controlled by an operator wearing a control suit.

Its hands are meticulously designed for handling human tools. It can unlock a door, turn a valve and use a fire extinguisher. There are also videos of it, driving cars and even using automatic pistols which prompted Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister to make it clear that the robot does not serve as a weapon, but uses artificial intelligence in assisting humans in several other places. It is the first Russian robot on ISS but robots developed by NASA and ESA are in use on the space station for a long time.

Robonaut 2, a NASA robot without legs worked with astronauts when it flew to the ISS in 2011 and worked till 2014. It was brought back to earth as it developed problems after that. CIMON, ESA’s social robot is on the ISS since 2018. It can recognize faces, capture images and assist astronauts in communicating with Watson, IBM’s NLP computer on Earth.

The most advanced robots have been from the Astrobee project of NASA. They will take over from the SPHERES satellites, which served 10 years as an experimental hardware platform.

The Astrobees are more advanced than SPHERES. They will be serving as payload carriers and gradually take over regular tasks in ISS such as equipment inventory and instrument surveys. Astrobee’s project manager, Maria Bualat said that in a crewed spaceflight, crew time is very precious. Assistant robots will be performing the repetitive and dangerous tasks which the crew has to perform now. Development work for robots to operate in space itself is also in progress. These robots can perform works such as repairing external leaks so that astronauts do not have to perform an extravehicular activity.

earth inner structure

New study attempts to explain the mystery of inner core of Earth

The movements of the innermost core of planet Earth are still a mystery. Beneath the surface of the planet, there is an extremely hot inner core which is surrounded by a molten liquid outer core. It is detached from the upper mantle and crust covering it. This arrangement has led to several questions, one of which is super-rotation. The inner core of the Earth is not connected to the mantle being separated by the fluidic outer layer. So this poses a question of its effect on Earth’s rotation.

Super rotation suggests that the inner core spins at a rate which is different to the rate of rotation of Earth i.e a complete rotation every 24 hours with respect to Sun. The inner core’s rate has been the subject of debate among scientists for a long period of time. Fresh analysis by John Vidale, a seismologist from the University of Southern California gives a new estimate for consideration. The study appears in the Geophysical Research Letters journal.  He examines the backscattered seismic waves which were detected with the help of nuclear tests carried out by the Soviet Union in Novaya Zemlya archipelago, northern Russia in 1971 and 1974. Several seismic stations including Large Aperture Seismic Array(LASA) which is the first large seismic array in the world detected the force of the blasts as the explosions were carried out. Vidale calculated that the inner core rotated nearly 0.07 degrees greater than the remaining planet during 1971 and 1974 with the help of LASA data and inner core motion based on the seismic waves. 

Maya Wei-Haas explains for the National Geographic that if the rate is correct, it means for a particular spot on the surface of Earth, the inner core would have moved 4.8 miles further over the course of one year. 

In 2000, Vidale estimated the rate to be 0.15 degrees per year with the help of the same nuclear test data which is much faster than the present estimation. Vidale explains that the latest estimate is accurate due to the improvements in data correction and interpretation. 

This is still a theoretical field as it is not possible to study the inner core from a closer perspective, hence this is also a reason for the rates differing. Super rotation came up in the 1970s but the proper modelling and seismic evidence came up in 1990s. Another study explained that the variations might be due to the differences in the surface of the inner core itself. More clarity in the results will only come up with more rigorous studies taken up by scientists. 

Journal Reference: Geophysical Research Letters

Comet-67P

Astrophotographer finds Comet 67P has its own tiny Churymoon

The Rosetta mission of the European Space Agency spent two years at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The mission ended in 2016 when the spacecraft collided with the comet. In the time spent at 67P, a huge number of images were captured. These images are now freely available at Rosetta website. An astrophotographer from Spain, Jacint Roger noticed something interesting in the images, an ice chunk traveling with 67P. He created a gif from the images which focused on the icy companion.

The images obtained were from two months after perihelion in the month of August 2015. 67P was basking in full sunlight at that time. The comet was inside dust as the heat of the Sun released comet gases in space which also carried dust with it. Along with dust, the ice chunk was also released from the comet in this time. The ice chunk is visible as the images focus on the nucleus of the comet. Less than 4 meters in diameter it is called Churymoon, a term coined by Julia Marín-Yaseli de la Parra, Ph.D. and ESA Researcher on Rosetta mission.

The images used by Jacint Roger are from OSIRIS instrument of Rosetta. It had a wide-angle camera for mapping the gas and dust near the comet and a Narrow-Angle Camera for mapping the nucleus of the comet in a high-resolution scale. Rosetta was at a distance of 400 kilometers from the center of the comet when the images were captured by the NAC. After leaving the comet, Churymoon spent the first 12 hours at a distance between 2.4km and 3.9km from the center of the comet in an orbital path. Then it went through the coma whose brightness made it hard to view it. It was again visible after emerging from the coma and its path was confirmed until 23rd October 2015.

Rosetta’s mission also included a study of the debris which was ejected from the planet. Churymoon is possibly the largest debris detected which will be further studied by researchers. It also had to watch the comet moving through perihelion. It took ten years for traveling to 67P/G-C. Earlier comets were only considered as dirty ice chunks moving through space. But Rosetta revealed the complexity of the comet in a detailed way. 67P is all possibility might be the result of a comet collision.

Eberhard Grün, a scientist working on Rosetta said that comets such as 67P/G-C are geographically complex worlds where several processes are involved in creating the comet’s surface and activity.

qubit states

Researchers discover superconductor that could enhance quantum computer development

Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have discovered a superconductor that could very probably be useful for developing quantum computers by overcoming one of the main barriers in the development of effective quantum logic circuit. The paper has been published in Science journal.

Recently unearthed properties in the compound uranium ditelluride or UTe2 show that it could be highly resilient to one of the nemeses of quantum computer development – the problem with making memory storage switches of a quantum computer known as qubits, to function long enough to complete a calculation before losing the sensitive physical relationship that allows them to function as a group. This is known as quantum coherence which is difficult to sustain because of disturbances from the surrounding world.

It is one of the rare superconductor materials because of its peculiar and strong resistance to the magnetic field and provides benefits for qubit design, mainly their resistance to the fallacies that can easily drag into the quantum calculation. The research team’s Nick Butch said that UTe2’s unique properties could make it alluring to the emerging quantum computer sector.

Butch, a physicist at the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR) said that uranium ditelluride which is the silicon of the quantum information era could be used to build the qubits of an efficient quantum computer.

Results of research team which includes scientists from Ames Laboratory and the University of Maryland explain UTe2’s exceptional characteristics, interesting from viewpoint of both technical application and fundamental science.

Electrons that conduct electricity travel as separate particles in copper wire or some other ordinary conductor but in Superconductors, they form cooper pairs and the electromagnetic interactions that produce these pairings are responsible for the material’s superconductivity. BCS theory which explains this type of superconductivity is named after the three scientists who revealed the pairings and also won the Nobel prize for that.

The property of electrons that is especially important to the cooper pairing is the quantum “spin” that makes electrons act as if they have a little bar magnet running through them. In the majority of superconductors, the paired electrons have their quantum spins oriented one upward and other downwards and the opposed pairing is called a spin-singlet.

The Cooper pairs in UTe2 can have their spins oriented in one of three combinations making their spin triplets oriented in parallel rather than opposition making it nonconformists like the very few known superconductors. Most of the spin-triplet SCs are assumed to be “topological” with an extremely useful quality in which the superconductivity occurs on the material’s surface and persist even in the presence of outer shocks.

These parallel spin pairs could help the computer keep operative and can’t automatically collapse because of quantum variations. Superconductor has been perceived to have advantages as the basis for quantum computer elements, and recent economical advances in quantum computer development have engaged circuits made from superconductors, unlike the quantum computer that need a way to correct the errors that drag in from their surroundings because of the topological SC’s properties.

Butch said that Topological superconductors are a substitute path to quantum computing because of long lifespan and it gives error-free qubits and also protects it from the environment.

Researchers stumbled upon UTe2 while exploring uranium-based magnets whose electronic properties can be adjusted as desired by changing their chemistry, pressure or magnetic field and is a useful feature for customizable materials (the material consists of slightly radioactive “depleted uranium”).

UTe2 was first developed back in the 1970s but recently while making some UTe2 while they were synthesizing related materials, they experimented it at lower temperatures to see if any event might have been ignored and they noticed that they had something very special.

The NIST team at both the NCNR and the University of Maryland started studying UTe2 with specialized tools and noticed that it became superconducting at low temperatures (below -271.5 oCelsius, or 1.6 Kelvin) with properties resembling rare ferromagnetic superconductors which acts like low-temperature permanent magnets. Yet, strangely UTe2 is itself not ferromagnetic which makes it fundamentally new.

UTe2 can resist fields as high as 35 Tesla which is 3,500 times strong as a normal refrigerator magnet, and much more than the lowest temperature topological SCs can resist.

This extraordinary resistance to strong magnetic fields means it is a spin-triplet SC and likely a topological SC as well and will help researchers to study the nature of UTe2 and superconductivity itself. The main purpose of this research and exploring SC’s is to study superconductivity and to know where to look for undiscovered SC materials which is difficult right now and also to understand what stabilizes these parallel-spin SCs.

Journal Reference: Science journal

Golden gate bridge smog

Study finds air pollution to be as harmful as smoking cigarettes

Emphysema is a smoker’s disease but according to a study, it turns out that exposure to air pollution may create the same lung conditions which cause emphysema. A new study finds that long-term exposure to high levels of air pollution can be linked to a higher rate in the development of lung damage even for non-smokers. The study looked at the effects of breathing in different pollutants like ground-level ozone which is main content behind smog.

People with exposure to high levels of ground-level ozone developed changes in lungs which were similar to that of smokers. Joel Kaufman, physician and epidemiologist at the University of Washington said that an increase of 3 parts per billion of ground-level ozone is equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes daily for 29 years.

The study involved close to 7000 adults from six US cities with average annual exposure between 10 to 25 parts per billion of ground-level ozone. However this is not limited to cities, but people across the US are exposed to similar concentrations that keep on varying. Ground-level ozone is formed due to pollution released from cars and from smokestacks in the sunlight.

Kaufman was surprised to see the effects similar in magnitude to that of cigarette smoking. For correct evaluation, Each person had done 5 CT scans over a decade which gave a 3D picture of their lungs and can detect changes and developments over time. Emily Brigham, a pulmonologist and assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University says that when airways get narrowed and damaged, it becomes harder to breathe and the air gets trapped. The symptoms are not noticeable at an early stage but get worse over time with prolonged exposure and with irreversible effects. Chronic respiratory diseases is a leading cause of death in the U.S and close to 7 million deaths annually are linked to air pollution.

A significant proportion of the US population who has COPD is actually non-smokers, but this study answers the reason behind their lung disease. Clean Air Act has however led to declining pollution in the US but ground-level ozone or smog is harder to control and that increasing hot days means the conditions are more favorable for ozone formation, we are going to see increased effects due to global warming even in healthy populations. The past concerns dealt with short term exacerbation of symptoms during smog days for people with asthma or COPD. In the past, EPA had not accepted that COPD is caused by long-term, chronic air pollution but now the study has shown the evidence that the benefits of cleaning the air because the findings suggest that long-term exposure to air pollution is damaging to lung health.

facet slac

New generation of X-Ray lasers and particle colliders to be produced by Trojan Horse technique

Researchers have developed “super microscopes” to study nature on its primary level which can solve atomic and sub-atomic mysteries. They can investigate the smallest dimensions of matter with electron rays although it won’t work with visible light. It can be done either by directly using them in particle colliders or converting their energy to bright X-rays in X-ray lasers. Particle accelerators first produce electrons at source, then excite them through accelerator cavities.

Scientists from the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory together with an international group of researchers have shown potentially much brighter plasma-based electron source suitable for use in powerful accelerators. Trojan horse technique is the process of releasing a beam of electrons from neutral atoms inside the plasma.

Bernhard Hidding from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, the principal investigator of the study said that the Trojan horse method is experimentally proven and can be used for future electron sources. The research has been published in Nature Physics.

Currently, electrons are produced by shining laser light onto a metallic photocathode which pulls electrons out of the metal. Then the electrons are accelerated inside metal cavities where more energy is withdrawn from radiofrequency field resulting in a high-power electron beam. The ray results in the generation of very bright X-ray light in X-ray lasers such as Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) of SLAC.

Accelerators for high-energy beams become very large and costlier because the metal cavities can sustain only a specific energy gain over a certain distance before it collapses. Researchers at SLAC tried to make compact accelerators as they experimented substituting metal cavities with plasma which decreases the length of accelerators by 100 to 1000 times along with higher acceleration gradients.

Co-author Mark Hogan from SLAC mentioned that plasma acceleration can be very powerful but enhanced beams suitable for future use have not been produced yet which makes improving beam quality a top priority along with developing new forms of electron sources. The Trojan horse method could make electron beams 100 to 10,000 times brighter than the most powerful beams currently according to past estimation by researchers.

James Rosenzweig, co-author and principal investigator for Trojan horse project at the University of California, Los Angeles said that it is possible to build X-ray lasers with same power over few meters rather than a kilometer by uniting high acceleration and beam creation in plasma. The scientists conducted their experiment at Facility for Advanced Accelerator Experimental Tests (FACET) facility that produces high energetic electron pulses for research on future accelerator technologies, including plasma acceleration.

The researchers beamed laser light having enough energy to remove electrons off hydrogen into a mixture of hydrogen and helium gas turning neutral hydrogen into plasma which was not possible with helium where electrons stayed inside plasma being neutral. Researchers produced a plasma wake by sending one of FACET’s electron beam through the plasma similar to a motorboat generates a stir when gliding through the water, where the trailing electrons gain a high amount of energy. A lot of research needs to be done for making compact X-Ray lasers a reality with a need to improve their quality and quantity.

Vitaly Yakimenko, director of SLAC’s FACET Division said that these advancements can be done after FACET upgradation and FACET-II completion as it will be the only place in the world to generate beams with enormous intensity and energy because the experiment depends on the ability to use a powerful electron beam to produce the plasma stir.

Researchers destroyed the helium when the trailing electrons passed by, with a focused laser flash. Electrons after being pulled out of the helium atoms by a light pulse having enough energy were then accelerated in the stir. UCLA’s Aihua Deng, one of the lead authors said that it is important as well as challenging for the synchronization between the electron beam and laser flash running through the plasma with the speed of light to last merely a few millionths of a billionth second.

The generated electron will trouble the formation of plasma stir if the flash comes too early and plasma would have moved on and the electrons would not get accelerated if it comes too late. Oliver Karger, the other lead author said that the electrons knocked from helium gets quickly accelerated in the forward direction keeping the beam tightly packaged making this method transformative.

Research Paper: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41567-019-0610-9

kilopower nasa

Nuclear reactor for crewed outposts on Mars and Moon could be ready by 2022

A new type of nuclear reactor has been designed to power outposts on Moon and Mars and it could be ready for its first in-space trial within a few years. The next step is a flight test for Kilopower experimental fission reactor which completed a series of ground tests from 2007 to 2018. Patrick McClure, Kilopower project lead at the Los Alamos National Laboratory said that Kilopower should be ready by 2022 although no off-earth demonstration has been scheduled yet.

He added that three years is a doable time frame which is not NASA’s stand who has been developing the project in collaboration with DOE. NASA’s Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes along with Curiosity Mars rover and New Horizons spacecraft employ radioisotope thermoelectric generators which convert the heat produced by the radioactive decay of plutonium-238 into electricity. RTGs produce relatively low power. It produces nearly 110 watts of electricity in Curiosity and the upcoming Mars 2020 rover.

A crewed outpost on Mars has higher energy demands around 40 kilowatts even for a small research envisioned by NASA for the late 2030s. Electricity will be required for water purification, oxygen generation for carbon-dioxide dominated atmosphere, charging up rovers, etc. Kilopower is a fission reactor and generates heat by splitting atoms into electricity through Sterling engines. The reactor was able to successfully convert 30% of the fission heat into electricity compared to 7% of regular RTG’s in a ground test series known as KRUSTY (Kilopower Reactor Using Sterling Technology). The project started in 2015 but the basic concepts were proved back in 2012 via an experiment called Demonstration Using Flattop Fissions (DUFF). KRUSTY and DUFF are characters in the Simpsons animated universe.

The reactor is designed to produce an output of 1 kilowatt of electrical power and can be scaled up to 10 kilowatts. NASA would need 4 of such reactors including one spare reactor. The 10-kilowatt machines would be just 11 feet in height and weigh close to 2000 kilograms. Without the astronaut shielding, it would weigh close to 1500 kilograms which would mean burying it in the ground.

The reactors are quite safe and there is no threat of radiation exposure if the rocket crashes back on Earth. The reactor is a self-regulating one if it gets too hot, the Stirling engines draw more heat away from uranium core and if temperature drops, the core naturally contracts which trap more neutrons and more splitting collisions. The device will need to dump a lot of heat on Mars due to the conversion efficiency of 30% will mean 70% of the heat will remain. It will come equipped with radiators.

A potential moon lander was the first task given to them as a demonstration mission for Kilopower but the concept will not end up flying as it targeted the lunar North pole and NASA was interested in the South Pole. Kilopower is the first fission reactor concept developed in the US in the last 40 years and is surely a milestone. US had previously launched reactors in experimental satellite, SNAP-10A in April 1965 but had to shut down after just 43 days. Although the Soviet Union was able to launch more than 30 fission reactors aboard satellites from 1967 to late 1980s.