Earth is running out of plutonium, which could threaten NASA's deep-space exploration programs. Plutonium-238 could be manufactured, but political and budgetary concerns stand in the way. "The supply situation is already impacting mission planning. If you're planning a mission that's going to take eight years to plan, the first thing you're going to want to know is if you have power," said nuclear engineer Alice Caponiti, who is leading the Energy Department's efforts to restart production of plutonium.

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