Space exploration’s best friend is piping-hot plutonium-238. Without this nuclear material, perhaps 99.9 percent of the Solar System in unreachable.
From 2011-2012, I reported a story for Wired on the grave crisis faced by NASA: Pu-238 is running out, and nobody is making it.
The package included a full-length feature story, dubbed “NASA’s Plutonium Problem Could End Deep-Space Exploration,” which contains a sidebar on the dangers (or lack thereof) of Pu-238.
My deep reporting work produced a slideshow detailing how NASA punished its nuclear batteries to test their safety, an interactive timeline of Pu-238’s history, and a gallery of the best nuclear-powered space missions.