Benefits of Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators

by Andrea L. Roth, Eldorado High Sch, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Engineering, Construction, and Operations in Space II


Since the 1960's the United States has had the capability to reach beyond the planet Earth with the aid of satellites and interplanetary space probes. As probes such as the Pioneer and Voyager series are venturing farther away from the sun, beyond the planet Mars, solar energy is no longer a feasible power source. The U.S. space program now utilizes nuclear power to fuel these missions. The nuclear power source is a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG). A controversy has arisen concerning the environmental safety of the RTGs. This paper discusses the advantages of using nuclear power to fuel space vehicles and the possible environmental hazards involved.

Subject Headings: Solar power | Environmental issues | Nuclear power | Thermal power | Mars | Fuels | Safety | Power plants | United States

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