Fuels have taken various forms over the centuries. Wood and coal were used to fuel fires for warmth. Eventually coal created fuel for steam engines. Water has been used to turn wheels to grind grains. Cars run on gasoline or diesel. Some actually run on bio-diesel made from vegetable or animal fats. In recent years, sunlight has been harvested to provide energy.
In the Star Trek Universe, however, other forms of fuel exist to propel the the starships through space. At first they were a fairly rare resource that de-crystalized with use, which meant they could only be used once. That is, until Scotty and Spock managed to figure out a way to re-crystalize them after a trek back in time all the way 1986.
Now while we don’t have dilithium crystals in the real world, there is an energy source available that can produce long lasting and powerful energy – plutonium. While trace amounts of plutonium can be found in nature, it’s generally a byproduct of nuclear reactions and is used to make nuclear weapons. Yep, that means it’s radio-active, so best not to handle it.
One type of plutonium was also used, by NASA of all people. That’s the energy source that Voyager 1 used, and still uses, to keep hurtling itself onward and outward. There’s just one problem – they’re running out. NASA reports that it currently has enough plutonium to last until the end of the decade. So why not make more? Arguing and political ignorance are the two main factors. What does this mean for NASA and the space program? Exploration of space may have to be put on hold, indefinitely.
Learn more and offer your opinions on the article itself. Don’t forget that you have a say in space exploration policy! See things happen by educating yourself, contacting your government representatives, spreading the word via social media, or getting involved in groups offline.