ESA Plans a 3D-Printed Moon Base

The European Space Agency is experimenting with a moon base built on site

By on February 1st, 2013 15:13 GMT

While we haven't left the comfort of low Earth orbit in decades now, there has been some renewed interest in sending astronauts a little further away, to an asteroid, Mars, even just the moon. There are also more plans for bases on the moon, near the moon and even beyond.

Granted, plans are one thing, putting them in motion is another. Still, the latest ideas from the European Space Agency is one of the most promising if only because it's the most practical.

The big problem with any moon base is getting everything you need all the way to there. Just sending a few people is hugely expensive, sending everything you need for a base, even a small one, is something no economy can afford at the moment.

This is why any moon base would have to make do with what's there as much as possible. ESA believes that 3D printing using material already on the moon is the answer.

ESA has renowned architects Foster + Partners working with it on the concept. The architects created a dome design which would house the humans built on the spot.

The printer to accomplish this already exists, though any lunar model would be more advanced. It works by mixing lunar dust with magnesium oxide to provide the base material and then adding a salt to keep it all together.

The result is a durable yet light construction that would serve as the basis for the buildings which would house four people and would be situated at the Moon's south pole.

The interior would be an inflatable shelter that would sit inside the printed walls. The large exterior walls would have to be thick enough to protect the interior from micrometeorites and especially from radiation, since there's no atmosphere on the moon to do that.

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