Chang'e 3 is still operating, 3 years later, sending good science from its LUT (Lunar-based Ultraviolet Telescope) - running on RTG batteries.

NASA is supposedly scrapping the bottom of the barrel reserving RTG fuel for most critical and valuable missions. ESA can't dream of RTGs even where they would be extremely valuable (like Rosetta/Philae). Meanwhile - yes, a lunar lander is a big step for China, but others have done it a long time ago; if anyone at NASA suggested a robotic, RTG-powered mission to the Moon currently, they'd get laughed off the complex.

Similarly, USA only ever produced about 500 pounds of tritium while China sells it on Aliexpress in keychains, $7 a piece.

Are there any publicly available estimates on Chinese stockpile of Pu-238 - their capacity of RTG battery production?

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  • $\begingroup$ How many pounds of tritium in a keychain? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jun 7 '17 at 12:07
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh: dunno, the \$7 are 1.5x6mm tubes. There are also 3x22.5mm tubes for \$18, but I have no clue what's the pressure and tube thickness. $\endgroup$ – SF. Jun 7 '17 at 12:16
  • $\begingroup$ See the linked question, it's on the order of micrograms. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Jun 7 '17 at 12:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Hobbes: Still, it's a very happy-go-lucky application. Regardless of amounts, the point stands - China appears to be far less conservative in use of nuclear materials than the West. $\endgroup$ – SF. Jun 7 '17 at 12:22
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    $\begingroup$ You don't need more plutonium for 3 years of operation than for 3 month only if the time of operation is small compared to the half-live of plutonium of 87 years. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Jun 10 '17 at 15:33

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