Nuclear Technology in Space

NASA, US Navy and Air Force have conducted over 27 space missions utilising radioistope power systems and radioisotope heater units in partnership with the Department of Energy.

Mission Year Agency Regions
Transit 4a 1961 Navy Earth- Navy Navigation Satelitte
Transit 4B 1961 Navy Earth – Navigation Satelitte
Transit 5-BN-1 1963 Navy Earth – Navigation Satelitte
Transit 5-BN-2 1963 Navy Earth – Navigation Satelitte
Nimbus III 1969 NASA Earth – Weather Satelitte
Apollo 11 1969 NASA Moon Surface
Apollo 12 1969 NASA Moon Surface
Apollo 14 1971 NASA Moon Surface
Apollo 15 1971 NASA Moon Surface
Pioneer 10 1971 NASA Jupiter
Apollo 16 1972 NASA Moon Surface
Triad-01-1X 1972 Navy Earth – Navigation Satelitte
Apollo 17 1972 NASA Moon Surface
Pioneer 11 1973 NASA Jupiter, Saturn
Viking 1 1975 NASA Mars Surface
Viking 2 1975 NASA Mars Surface
Lincoln Experimental Satelitte 8 1976 Air Force Earth – Communications Satellite
Lincoln Experimental Satelitte 9 1976 Air Force Earth – Communications Satellite
Voyager 2 1977 NASA Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune. Interstellar Space
Voyager 1 1977 NASA Jupiter, Saturn, Interstellar Space
Galileo 1989 NASA Venus, Asteroid Belt, Jupiter
Ulysses 1990 NASA Jupiter, Sun, Comets
Pathfinder-Sojourner 1996 NASA Mars Surface
Cassini-Huygens 1997 NASA Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Titan
Pluto New Horizons 2006 NASA Jupiter, Pluto, Kuiper Belt
Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity 2011 NASA Mars Surface



“There is nothing more costly than nuclear power. Nuclear plant promotion is irresponsible at a time when no assurance exists about the disposal of radioactive wastes.  Japan should achieve zero nuclear plants and aim for a more sustainable society.”

 Junichiro Koizumi  
Former Japanese Prime Minister
28th May 2011

“The unfortunate truth is we are likely to see much more disasters. The world has witnessed an unnerving history of nuclear accidents.”

Ban Ki-moon
U.N Secretary-General
In Kiev 20th April 2011, marking the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl Disaster


“The nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl, even more than my launch of perestroika, was perhaps the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union five years later. Indeed, the Chernobyl catastrophe was an historic turning point: there was the era before the disaster, and there is the very different era that has followed.

The price of the Chernobyl catastrophe was overwhelming, not only in human terms, but also economically. Even today, the legacy of Chernobyl affects the economies of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.”

Mikhail Gorbachev
Former Soviet Union President 2006

This stands to be the mistake of a generation. After the tremendous lead Britain has given the world by advancing legally binding emissions targets in its Climate Bill, it would be a ghastly mistake for the government to commit us to a nuclear energy policy with astronomical costs and dangers of nuclear contamination for generations to come.

Ken Livingstone
Former Mayor of London
Speaking on the UK’s plans to build a new generation of nuclear power stations in 2008. 

“If nuclear power plants are safe, let the commercial insurance industry insure them. Until these most expert judges of risk are willing to gamble with their money, I’m not willing to gamble with the health and safety of my family.”

Donna Reed
Hollywood Actress

“For 50 years, nuclear power stations have produced three products which only a lunatic could want: bomb-explosive plutonium, lethal radioactive waste and electricity so dear it has to be heavily subsidised. They leave to future generations the task, and most of the cost, of making safe sites that have been polluted half-way to eternity.”
James Buchan
British Novelist

“There are many different kinds of radioactive waste and each has its own half-life so, just to be on the safe side and to simplify matters, I base my calculations on the worst one and that’s plutonium. Perhaps most ridiculous of all is the suggestion that we ‘keep’ our radioactive garbage for the use of our descendants. This ‘solution’, I think, requires an immediate poll of the next 20,000 generations.”

David R. Brower
Founder, Friends of the Earth

Nuclear Waste falling from the Skies

When we talking about Nuclear Waste, the sort of places you’d imagine it turning up are either at sea or on a landfill site, but many are oblivious to the toxic radioactive hazards circling above our heads daily, in the form of ageing radioisotope-thermonuclear generators – a legacy of military and commercial space ventures dating as far back as the early 1960’s.