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Last Updated: Monday, 18 August, 2003, 23:23 GMT 00:23 UK
Russia plans Mars nuclear station
By Artyom Liss
BBC, Moscow

Russian scientists have announced plans to build a nuclear power station on Mars.

They say that all the necessary technical drawings have now been completed, and - after a few minor niggles have been ironed out - all will be ready for the construction work to begin.

Mars, Nasa
Russia hopes to set up a permanent base on Mars
The power plant should be up and running by 2030.

But experts are already asking questions about the feasibility of the project.

The first extra-terrestrial nuclear power station will serve the permanent research camp which, Russian scientists believe, could be set up on Mars within the next 30 years.

Deputy chief engineer of Red Star - a state scientific company closely affiliated with Russia's Nuclear Energy Ministry - says the station will be constructed in the mountainous areas of Mars, possibly in one of the canyons.

Cosmic building site

It will produce enough power for future Russian missions to the planet to be fully self-contained and will not need more than six engineers to maintain.

Martian landscape, Nasa
The Red Planet is extremely inhospitable
Scientists say that the station is now almost ready to be built - all they have to do is to find a way to protect staff and environment from radiation.

The only stumbling block is how to deliver ready-made building blocks to a construction site 300 million kilometres (186.4 million miles) away from Earth.

The plan is that the heavier equipment will be delivered to Mars by an automatic lander - like the European Beagle which is now making its way to the Red Planet.

The scientists say that more delicate goods will arrive in a manned spaceship.

Its crew will build both the station and the research base for all future expeditions.

What is Mars like?
30 May 03  |  Science/Nature


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