The comforts and necessities of our daily existence could not be fulfilled without the use of energy. Yet, our world is in a constant state of crisis when it comes to energy reserves. Aerospace engineer Kirk Sorensen believes he’s uncovered a solution that’s cleaner, more efficient and somewhat more controversial than the tremulous energy sources we currently rely upon – an abundant, naturally occurring and energy dense radioactive element called Thorium. The new feature-length documentary titled Thorium: The NASA Story supports one aspect of Sorensen’s proposed solution by outlining its worthiness in the pursuit of space colonization, and then tying it back to its practical applications here on Earth.
Carefully assembled from a series of viral video sources and newly produced footage by Gordon McDowell, the film makes intimidating scientific concepts easily understandable to the layperson. First, it establishes the role that energy plays in space travel and exploration by recalling a series of groundbreaking NASA missions including Voyager 1, New Horizons and the Mars Exploration Rover Mission.
The victories and shortfalls of each of these missions can be traced back to their utilization of power. The further we travel beyond the sun, the more incompetent our solar and battery-powered energy sources become. As a result, many of NASA’s loftiest ambitions – including their desire to explore beneath the ice of Jupiter’s moon Europa – remain stalled in the conceptual phase. According to Sorensen, who worked for NASA for over a decade, nuclear power could change all that.
The film uses the example of the hugely popular book and films The Martian as an illustration of its argument. If his mission were powered by nuclear energy, the protagonist would have little difficulty travelling across the surface of Mars and harnessing the planet’s resources for food and sustenance.
The aspirations of Neil deGrasse Tyson, Elon Musk, and every human favouring space exploration are blocked by off-world energy constraints. As real-world, billion-dollar solar-powered space missions fail because of dust and shadow, the film convincingly argues that Thorium’s most practical application is not even in space, but back here on Earth. Instead of using Uranium in today’s water-cooled nuclear reactors, with Thorium we can power our world more efficiently than ever before. The widespread view of nuclear power is as a force for destruction. Thorium: The NASA Story successfully counters this reputation.
Directed by: Gordon McDowell