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March 25, 2017

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40 years ago, the first time a vehicle was driven over an extraterrestrial surface. The Soviet Lunokhod (moon walker) rover covered several miles on the moon, heated at night by a polonium-210 source, which undergoes an alpha decay to lead (Pb) yielding 5058 keV. Assume a power requirement of 100W.

a) Write the chemical equation for this nuclear decay.
b) How many Becquerel do you need in the polonium sample to achieve the required heating?
c) How long does this decay need to proceed at the same rate, so that 1 ug is converted into energy (c=3*10^8 m/s)? In reality, the rover 'died' from the activity in its polonium cell causing it to freeze out at night.

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