3D printing continues to be one of the most promising technologies to deliver humanity its first permanent moon base. Cost and materials tend to be major stumbling blocks, but the use of 3D printers by London-based Foster + Partners addresses both hurdles.
You see, nearly the entire surface of the Moon is made up of a substance called regolith. And regolith, it turns out, is quite useable as a building material. It naturally provides protection against meteorites, gamma radiation and the Moon’s temperature fluctuations.
As an added bonus, regolith exists on Earth as well. This has given the Foster + Partners team the ability to test their 3D printers here before they just go shooting them off to the Moon. A 1.5-ton mockup of the facility has already been created, along with some small-scale tests within a vacuum chamber.
Here’s how the printing process goes down: a tubular capsule, housing the printer, lands on the moon. Then an inflatable dome extends from one end of the capsule, giving the moon base its basic shape. Next a robot wakes up — yeah, there’s a robot (pictured in our gallery below) — and begins to operate the 3D printer. The printer works regolith into a foam-like substance and prints the material evenly over the inflatable dome, creating a solid, protective shell. The result is a moon base capable of housing four people.