Building a base on the Moon would be much simpler if it were built with a 3D crawler made from local materials, the European Space Agency (ESA) has said.
“The 3D printing technology used on Earth has made it possible to build complete structures,” said Laurent Pambaguian, who is leading the project for ESA.
ESA designed the dome structure with a weight-bearing ‘catenary’ structure, a cell-structured wall to help protect against micrometeoroids and space radiation, and a pressurised inflatable system to provide shelter for astronauts.
Source – ESA
Meanwhile, an internal hollow closed-cell structure, somewhat reminiscent of bird bones, provides a combination of strength and weight.
“3D printing offers a potential means to facilitate lunar settlement with reduced logistics from Earth,” said Scott Hovland of ESA’s Human Spaceflight team.
How would they print on the moon?
In 3D ‘prints’, they build layer by layer. A mobile printer array of nozzles on a 6-meter-long frame sprays a binding solution onto the sand-like building material. The simulated lunar material is first mixed with magnesium oxide to turn it into “paper” for printing. Then a binder salt is used as a structural ‘ink’ to convert the material into a rock-like solid.
Source – ESA
“This project was carried out within the framework of ESA’s general study programme, which is used to study new topics,” Laurent noted.
“They have validated the basic concept and assembled a capable team to take the work forward.”