Even before the time when Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon in 1969, man have contemplated the possibilities of a stable lunar outpost habitable by humans. Fast forward to 2010s, space scientists are scrambling to make moon colonization attainable especially now that technology is more sophisticated. Since the moon is nearer, it is the most obvious location for expansion. The European Space Agency (ESA) has been working together with architects to assess the possibility of 3D printing structures using raw materials originating from the moon. Constructing a lunar settlement could ideally be made easier by the technology.
Shelter is one of the most fundamental human necessity; however, bringing supplies and equipment to construct living structures on the moon would occupy significant space onboard a spacecraft, which could instead be used for other life-sustaining provisions. NASA recounted that the capability to produce structures using local materials with waste from the spaceship would be instrumental. For space scientists envisaging a lunar habitat, 3D printing with moon dirt appears as a fascinating fabrication, which would permit astronauts to fix damaged components, build spares, and construct buildings from soil on the moon.
According to their website, the ESA team have designed “a weight-bearing ‘catenary’ dome design with a cellular structured wall to help shield against micrometeoroids and space radiation – incorporating a pressurized inflatable to shelter astronauts. A hollow closed-cell structure – somewhat reminiscent of bird bones – provides a combination of strength and weight.” NASA has also been in the deep on space exploration with 3D-printed human settlement through a contest with prizes of $2.25 million and a journey to Mars to the most feasible design and construction. According to the US government agency, “the multiple-level 3D Printed Habitat Challenge is designed to advance the additive construction technology needed to create sustainable housing solutions for Earth and beyond.”
The first phase is a design contest, where competitors are requested to create advanced architectural models that make the most of the distinctive competencies of the 3D printing technology. The second phase has two levels, which are the Structural Member Competition, where participants are requested to concentrate on the production technologies required to fabricate structural elements from local materials and recyclables, and the On-Site Habitat Competition, which challenges participants to produce full-scale environments.
The best ideas and creations will aid NASA in forming the technical expertise to deliver settlement-constructing equipment to far-off planets like Mars. These knowledge, however, will also be invaluable for constructing inexpensive housing in distant locations on Earth, where there is no or less available building materials.