When you consider humans building a base on another rock floating in space, you usually think of those science fiction books you read back in high school. Fairly soon, such an accomplishment will not be the work of a science fiction writer, but instead the work of NASA, The ESA, or perhaps even a private company.
Although there are no immediate plans to build a base on our Moon, recent technological advances, as well as innovative ideas, will soon make such a project very possible. 3D printers, along with robotics could work together to make such a project cheaper, less risky, and much more likely to succeed than most experts believed just a year or two ago.
Prior to the advent of 3D printing, the idea of building a base on any planet, asteroid, or moon would be completely impractical. The costs of carrying materials to the moon would be so substantial, that it would make any such project dead on arrival. This has all changed. Theoretically, to 3D print a base on the Moon, the only material needed, in addition to a typical NASA mission, would be the printer itself, some sort of bonding agent, which would be used to solidify Moon dust into structures and a few tools.
The technology to print large concrete structures is already here. It’s called contour crafting, and has been researched on by Behrokh Khoshnevis of the University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute. He has also been working with NASA for almost four years, trying to come up with the correct schematics for printing out both Moon and Martian bases in the future. According to Khoshnevis, such bases could be printed using 90% Moon dust, meaning Astronauts would be responsible for transporting the other 10%. This small fraction of materials would likely be made up of the bonding agents used within the concrete like substance extruded from the printer. You can see an example of contour crafting, using a large 3D printer in the video below:
“3-D printing offers a potential means of facilitating lunar settlement with reduced logistics from Earth,” said the ESA’s Scott Hovland
Already, scientists in Italy have been able to actually test print structures, using a material which has 99.8% the same composition as Moon dust. The material was accidentally discovered within an Italian volcano. There are still several obstacles to overcome, all which seem possible in the next few years. Temperatures on the Moon, the lack of gravity, and dangers to humans working the machines, all need to be factored into any final plan that may one day be set into action.
Discuss the future prospects of a 3D printed base on the moon here: https://3dprintboard.com/showthread.php?1680-3D-Printing-a-Moon-Base
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