ESA to use 3D printing to create first lunar base

10 Nov 2014

3D printed lunar base image via ESA/Foster + Partners

The European Space Agency (ESA) is looking into the potential of 3D printing being the answer to constructing an affordable and safe structure on the moon’s surface.

Documenting how this will be achieved in a newly released video, the ESA have looked at the achievements of 3D printing here on Earth and with the help of an architectural firm called Foster + Partners, could make a lunar base a reality.

The key challenge, as far as the ESA is concerned, is creating a habitat that can protect the inhabitants of the lunar base from the dangers of space that we take for granted here on Earth with our own atmosphere, including gamma radiation, meteoroid strikes and extreme temperature changes.

By developing a four-wheeled robot capable of 3D printing, the ESA will look to this rover to collect and use the lunar soil, mixed with a sealant, as the building material that will cover the pre-constructed dome giving it all the protection it needs from the lethality of space.

By using material from the Moon, the ESA can save billions of euro in cost by keeping the rocket’s weight as minimal as possible.

Scott Hovland of the ESA’s human spaceflight team has previously said that it could lead the way for mankind’s exploration of other planets: “3D printing offers a potential means of facilitating lunar settlement with reduced logistics from Earth.

“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.”

If the plan is to get the go-ahead, they hope that the rover will be able to produce the lunar building material at a rate of 3.5m per hour.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic