Ed’s note: To boldly go where no DoE has gone before…


Have you ever wondered about what life would be like on another planet? How would you provide power to a lunar homestead – in fact, how do you provide power in space generally?

I remember the first time I went to the Air and Space Museum in Washington. I was like a kid in a candy store at being able to partially tick off a bucket list item when I got to see the space craft in which man had finally made his journey to the Moon. I was entranced by the bold vision and nerves of steel which have guided the astronauts across the years … I’ll admit it. I completely surrendered to my inner nerd.

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So, imagine how I felt when one of my colleagues mentioned that the US Department of Energy had developed and released a Strategy to Advance American Space Leadership. It was like Christmas and my birthday all rolled into one!

According to the strategy paper: “the future space arena will have a sustained human and robotic presence across the solar system, and an expanding sphere of commercial, non-government activities with increasing numbers of Americans living and working in space.” But how will they do it? How will they power their new, lunar based lives?

The DoE’s strategy is underpinned by four goals – namely:

  • Power the exploration of Space by the development of ‘space-capable’ energy technologies.
  • Solve the mysteries of Space through scientific discovery.
  • Support the secure and peaceful use of Space by providing technical capacity and technology for both national security and civil space development.
  • Enable the development of Space via innovative in space science research and breakthroughs.

While it may sound like this could be a joke post, it is in fact something that will likely have real-life, on-earth applications or shoot-offs as well. In space, in addition to energy being generated, collected, stored and distributed; used for work, and managed in order to power vehicles, equipment, and habitats – it must operate under what can only be termed extreme conditions in a reliable, safe and sustainable way. The potential for benefits here and now (and on earth) are enormous.

Imagine solar PV systems that have to operate in a lunar setting – what kind of exposure do they have to sun and what kind of storage capacity will be necessary for such systems? In addition, the extreme heat and cold on the surface of the moon will require solar cells that can withstand temperatures of between -173 degrees Celsius up to 127 degrees Celsius – giving new meaning to the word extreme. In addition, because parts of the moon have long periods of dark, followed by long periods of light, the ability to store and distribute electricity on the lunar surface will need to be second to none. Any failure in this environment will likely be catastrophic.

Of course, the US are not the only country actively exploring how space and energy may work together and while the main purpose of this strategy document is to ensure safe and secure power on the moon, there is no doubt that the benefits will accrue down here on earth for us mere mortals too.

Do you know of any technology we are using on a daily basis on earth that was initially developed for space (and I don’t mean Velcro…) or are you working on such technology? Where do you believe this type of collaboration could take energy technologies? We’d love to hear from you! You can reach out to editorial@smart-energy.com or comment on our LinkedIn post.

This year has started off a little more bumpy than many of us would have liked, but the team here at Smart Energy International would still like to wish you all a safe, prosperous, happy and healthy 2021.

Until next time!