The European Space Agency’s (ESA) plan to construct a base on the Moon raises some questions of practicability. For example, a rather large logistical problem arises when dealing with resources: How does the ESA plan to move all the necessary construction materials from Earth to the Moon on a 238,900-mile journey?
The solution, according to the ESA, is a 3D printer. The idea was developed roughly a year ago, and is seemingly plausible in theory. However, in order to bring the project to life, the ESA must continue to test the technique.
In October, the ESA’s ESTEC technical center held a workshop, Additive Manufacturing for Space Applications, to discuss the potential of 3D printing. If all goes according to plan, the project will significantly transform the future of the space industry.
According to the intergovernmental organization, its scientist will test the new method by harnessing sunlight to melt the loose layer of soil and rock that currently blankets the moon. The material, known as regolith, will be converted by the 3D-printer into hollow blocks that will function as a light, but sturdy protective layer over the habitat. After 3 months, the base should be safe enough to house settlers, and will come complete with windows,
In an ESA released statement, Scott Hovland, a member of the human spaceflight team, has suggested that “3D printing offers a potential means of facilitating lunar settlement with reduced logistics from Earth.”
“The new possibilities this work opens up can then be considered by international space agencies as part of the current development of a common exploration strategy,” he said.
The ESA is currently teaming up with a British architectural firm, Foster + Partners, to bring the idea into practice. With an improved printer from Monolite, the ESA believes the whole structure could be completed within a week of initiation.
The European Space Agency has also provided a video detailing the processes behind the project to showcase how 3D-printing robots may be used to construct the base. With such progress, we can expect to see the mission to be completed within the next 40 years, especially since 90% of the building materials will come straight from the moon itself.