As NASA plans to return astronauts to the Moon in 2025, an Israeli professor’s solution for generating renewable energy on the lunar surface, presented to NASA in August, would bring solar power to Earth’s nearest large celestial body.
With NASA hoping to begin construction of a lunar base over the next decade, producing energy for life support and research systems is a priority. Ben-Gurion University Emeritus Prof. Jeffrey Gordon shared with the organization what he thinks is a viable solution: Solar energy without energy storage.
Gordon’s plan involves placing a 360° ring of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels near the lunar pole. Transmission lines would deliver the generated power to oxygen generators placed closer to the lunar pole.
Oxygen generators would be used by the astronauts but also for developing rocket fuel to explore further into the solar system, reaching planets such as Mars. Allowing rockets to refuel from the Moon would reduce the cost of launching them from Earth. Currently, rockets must launch with enough fuel for the outgoing and return journeys.
NASA is widely believed to favor nuclear fission technology for power production on the lunar surface, due to the longevity of fission materials. Solar PVs are considered problematic because the Moon is in the dark for almost half of its rotation, facing away from the sun.
Gordon argued that his plan has superior specific power (kW of power generated per kilogram of material) to nuclear fission and does not require battery storage, but transmits continuously. Gordon said his plan works because of the lack of lunar atmosphere and the “near-zero tilt of the Moon’s polar axis with respect to the ecliptic plane.”
The professor claimed that his system would be 100 times better than a battery-reliant PV system because of the weight of battery storage systems. He estimated his proposed system to be at least six times superior to nuclear fission systems.
Gordon started working on his solar plan with Israeli startup The Helios Project, which focuses on bringing the necessary technology for human survival to both the Moon and Mars. That partnership didn’t last, but Gordon kept working on his plan.
Gordon published his proposed plan in March 2022 in the journal Renewable Energy, before he was asked to speak at NASA.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.