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Comet Runner: Will 3D Printing Make Comet Hopping a Reality?

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Projects like the 3D Printing in Zero-G Technology Demonstration from NASA on the International Space Station and a London architecture firm’s work with the European Space Agency to consider methods for constructing 3D printed homes on the moon have captured the imagination and foretold a future where additive manufacturing will leave Earth for points unknown.

And now another project has been put forward which might some day use regolith-like material on the surface of comets to 3D print structures off our planet.

Masayuki Sono

Masayuki Sono

Masayuki Sono and Ostap Rudakevych are the founding partners of Clouds Architecture Office, and the pair are making waves for their work on projects like the September 11 Memorial in Staten Island, NY, to MIT’s Media Lab.

The pair say their architectural practice is dedicated to the idea that the “built environment should also achieve a dynamic harmony with its environment.”

Ostap Rudakevych

Ostap Rudakevych

“Our goal is to create conditions that allow for a resonant experience by the synthesis of ideas through design,” says their website.

Now Sono and Rudakevych have proposed that a series of floating space stations could be placed in the orbits of exocomets outside our solar system – and they add that such stations could be built on their surface with materials found on the comets and then 3D printed.

“Comet running presents a provocative opportunity for expanding our reach in outer space by lowering the cost of long-distance space flight,” the architects told Dezeen. “The project envisions harnessing a comet as an interstellar vehicle. The target comet would be prescreened to ensure it contains volatile compounds necessary for sustaining the mission.”

The pair say the idea was inspired by the Rosetta mission, a European Space Agency project which sought to land a vehicle on the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

“It is hypothesized that there are billions of roughly 20-kilometre-wide comets in the Oort cloud,” the pair say. “Many contain compounds such as water, methane, carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide which can be converted to things useful for a long distance space mission, such as fuel, oxygen, plastics, refrigerant and fertilizer.”

Their plan calls for a space station which includes a processing plant and laboratory, storage areas for materials extraction equipment and refined materials, and a even a greenhouse.CAO_CometRunner_section_1000

According to the architects, 3D printing could be used to create structures from dust found on the comets. Sono and Rudakevych say their Comet Runner concept includes the idea that astronauts would harvest surface dust as 3D printing media to create temporary surface dwellings.

What do you think of this idea to build structures on the surface of comets from Clouds Architecture Office? Do these kinds of ideas have a useful purposed? Let us know on the  3D Printed Future for Architecture on Comets forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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