In an effort to test the feasibility of 3D printing an entire lunar base using lunar soil on the Moon, rather than spending extravagantly on launching living modules to the Moon, London-based architectural firm Foster + Partners has joined hands with the European Space Agency. Exploring the possibility of 3D printing in hostile lunar environment, the consortium, which includes several other promising names as well, is planning to build extraterrestrial structures using lunar soil – known as regolith. If successful, the trials will help reduce the cost of setting up such a structure on the Moon in the near future.
Terrestrial 3D printing has considerably evolved in the past few years and we recently reported about designers planning to print the world’s first 3D printed building in the near future. However, replicating the process in low-gravity conditions on the Moon can get a little difficult. The team states that the four-occupant base’s internal domed structure would be made on Earth and sent to the Moon folded up in a tube. Once the structure is set up near the south pole of the Moon, a 3D printer, something on the lines of the D-Shape 3D printer will build a stone-like protective shell to protect the occupants from meteorites, gamma rays and the rapid fluctuations in temperature.
Gizmag reports that to test the theory, the team has already built a 1.65-ton structure from a mixture of simulated regolith. The tests sound promising but the team still has to figure out a way to control the lunar dust before they can actually shoot a 3D printer to the Moon and start building a base for future astronauts.