Nuclear power will play an important role in future exploration efforts. Its benefits pertain to practically all the different timeframes associated with the Exploration Vision, from robotic investigation of potential lunar landing sites to long-duration crewed missions on the lunar surface. However, the implementation of nuclear technology must follow a logical progression in capability that meets but does not overwhelm the power requirements for the missions in each exploration timeframe. It is likely that the surface power infrastructure, particularly for early missions, will be distributed in nature. Thus, nuclear sources will have to operate in concert with other types of power and energy storage systems, and must mesh well with the power architectures envisioned for each mission phase. Most importantly, they must demonstrate a clear advantage over other non-nuclear options (e.g., solar power, fuel cells) for their particular function. This paper describes a strategy that does this in the form of three sequential system developments. It begins with use of radioisotope generators currently under development, and applies the power conversion technology developed for these units to the design of a simple, robust reactor power system. The products from these development efforts would eventually serve as the foundation for application of nuclear power systems for exploration of Mars and beyond.