LONDON (TIP): The European Space Agency (ESA) plans to set up a base on Moon by using a 3D printer to build it from lunar materials, scientists say. Industrial partners including renowned architects Foster + Partners have joined with ESA to test the feasibility of 3D printing using lunar soil, the space agency said. ‘Terrestrial 3D printing technology has produced entire structures.
Our industrial team investigated if it could similarly be employed to build a lunar habitat,” said Laurent Pambaguian, who heads the project for ESA. Foster + Partners devised a weight-bearing ‘catenary” dome design with a cellular structured wall to shield against micro-meteoroids and space radiation, incorporating a pressurized infl atable to shelter astronauts. A hollow closed-cell structure — reminiscent of bird bones — provides a good combination of strength and weight.
The base’s design was guided in turn by the properties of 3D-printed lunar soil, with a 1.5 tonne building block produced as a demonstration. The UK’s Monolite supplied the D-Shape printer, with a mobile printing array of nozzles on a 6m frame to spray a binding solution onto a sand-like building material. ‘First, we needed to mix the simulated lunar material with magnesium oxide. This turns it into ‘paper”,” said Monolite founder Enrico Dini. ‘Then for our structural ‘ink’ we apply a binding salt which converts material to a stone-like solid.