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Multi-dome base being constructed  (Source: ESA)
A 1.5 tonne building block has already been produced for demonstration purposes

The European Space Agency (ESA) is looking to build a lunar base with 3D printing using local materials on the moon.

The idea behind this project is to offer settlement for astronauts on the moon while using less of Earth's resources to do so.

ESA has partnered with architectural firms like Foster + Partners to see whether lunar soil could be used for a 3D printed lunar base. In fact, Foster + Partners has already designed a "catenary" dome, which is a hollow closed-cell structure complete with a wall that protects against space radiation and micrometeoroids.

A 1.5 tonne building block has already been produced for demonstration purposes, as seen below:

The 3D structures are built layer-by-layer. The lunar material would be combined with magnesium oxide, which turns it into a "paper" to be printed with. Then, for the "ink," a binding salt is added to transform the material into a solid. The architects are trying to create a structure that can handle the harsh weather and environment that the moon can have.

“3D printing offers a potential means of facilitating lunar settlement with reduced logistics from Earth,” said Scott Hovland of ESA’s human spaceflight team.
“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.”

Source: European Space Agency

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By TSS on 2/2/2013 6:47:06 PM , Rating: 3
He still has a point though. I mean if what you say is true then this 3D printing technique wouldn't work either - the dust would be all the material they'd have to work with and i imagine it'd run out pretty fast.

perhaps there's a way to combine the 2 techniques. First have a shaped charge impact the moon to create a crater, maybe use multiple impacts in the same spot to deepen it without widening it (i'll leave it up to nasa how to create a vertical shaft with impacts instead of just a larger crater). Then cap that hole with the 3D printing technique using surrounding dust and maybe even lunar rock loosened up by the impacts.

Once you have a capped hole, you've got the first living quarters for the scientists who can set up mining bots. It might be hard to tunnel through, but the idea here isn't going fast, it's going at all. So have the machine go slow, turn a couple of them on, then return in a couple years while you set up other similar sites for your fully dug out, air tight moon base. Put in a recirculation system, fly in the air from earth, and you've got permenant living quarters for whoever you need to, like large construction crews that'll work on the surface constructing your surface buildings.

It's still a dream sure, but not an unobtainable dream.

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