NAME: 3D-printed Moon Base
AUTHOR: A consortium set up by the European Space Agency made of the renowned architectural practice Foster + Partners, the Italian space engineering firm Alta SpA, the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna of Pisa and Monolite UK which supplied the 3D printer.
DESCRIPTION: From the difficulty to transport materials to the satellite to the environmental conditions, drastically different from the ones found on Earth, building a Moon base is a challenging experience. Foster + Partners came up with a clever idea to overcome these difficulties. Instead of importing heavy materials, they propose to use the ressources on hand and 3D printing technology to build a Moon base capable of hosting 4 people. An inflatable dome shipped to the Moon by a space rocket serves as a support structure for the construction. A 3D-printing robot is then in charge of building over the dome, layer by layer, using regolith, the lunar soil. The protective shell has a closed hollow cellular structure, similar to foam in order to ensure strength and protect the base from gamma radiations, meteorites and high temperatures fluctuations. A 1.5 tons mock up made of simulated lunar soil has already been created and 3D-printing tests in a vacuum chamber simulating the Moon conditions have been conducted to test the feasibility of the concept.
AMUSEMENT RATE: The idea of a lunar base is appealing enough as it is, but add 3D printing to the mix and you have an even more exciting project. Many issues have yet to be adressed, such as lunar dust and thermal factors, but the great news is that the basic concept is working. We might have to wait a bit before seeing this Moon base up and running but in the meantime, we will soon be able to appreciate the first 3D-printed building right here on Earth, due for completion as early as next year.