NASA is currently preparing to establish a lunar abode that promises to be an amazing experience. The U.S. Space Agency recently has granted a pioneering construction firm $60 million to build a house on the moon by 2040, aimed not only for space explorers but also for the general public.
The innovative strategy involves sending an enormous 3D printer to the moon. This printer will utilize lunar concrete, composed of rocks and moon dust, to create the structure’s foundation.
In collaboration with academic institutions and private enterprises, NASA is in the process of designing the essential components like doors, tiles, and furnishings for the moon dwelling.
Furthermore, the blueprint also entails establishing a base on Mars, intending to accommodate those venturing to reside on the Martian surface.
The project is still in its nascent phase, with only conceptual designs from 2022 shedding light on its potential appearance. However, this initial design might significantly evolve over the upcoming years.
For the moment, NASA remained silent about the potential cost for civilians seeking a lunar retreat.
ICON, the Austin-based company that secured NASA’s 2022 contract, brings its terrestrial 3D printing prowess to the table. They meticulously craft opulent homes layer by layer, using their proprietary system, The Vulcan.
This method deploys a blend of cement, sand, and water as its filament, akin to a dense ink extruded from the printer in cohesive bands. Every structural element, such as walls or roofs, are printed distinctly and later assembled. Remarkably, this printing mechanism can complete properties in a mere 48 hours.
Since its inception in 2018, ICON has successfully printed over 100 homes in the northern region of Austin. This innovative construction method, with its rapid execution, has piqued interest as a potential solution to the U.S. housing dilemma.
NASA perceives 3D-printed moon houses as a pivotal aspect of its lunar ambitions. Raymond Clinton, aged 71, who holds the position of deputy director at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center’s science and technology division, said:
“I wish I would be around to see it. When we talk about a sustainable human presence, to me, that means that you have a lunar settlement and you have people living and working on the moon continuously. What that could be is only up to the imagination of entrepreneurs.”
ICON has emphasized the need to enhance infrastructure against thermal challenges, radiation, and micrometeorite threats.
Before the 3D printer’s deployment, NASA will need to establish landing zones for rockets on the moon. According to the experts, it is vital that these pads are situated at a distance from the dwellings to reduce the effects of lunar dust during rocket operations.
“To change the space exploration paradigm from ‘there and back again’ to ‘there to stay,’ we’re going to need robust, resilient, and broadly capable systems that can use the local resources of the Moon and other planetary bodies,” said Jason Ballard, the co-founder and CEO of ICON.
As a preliminary step, ICON aims to assess its printer’s performance at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in the coming February, focusing on its adaptability to the vacuum and radiation conditions prevalent in space.
Ultimately, the timeline will hinge on NASA’s progress in setting up lunar landing zones. The space agency is gearing up for the second phase of its Artemis mission, scheduled for 2024, which will send astronauts on the moon’s orbit.
The subsequent phase, Artemis 3, targeting either 2025 or 2026, envisions landing astronauts on the moon. These will be essential steps in ultimately creating a habitable construction on the Earth’s satellite.
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