Science

A NASA-funded 3D printing company will build lunar dwellings.

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Life on the Moon… It’s an old dream that still comes true. NASA, far from giving up on it, just signed a contract with a company called ICON, which specializes in 3D printed construction, so that it can develop manufacturing technologies adapted to lunar conditions.

“New technologies are needed to meet the unique challenges of living and working on another world,” is how NASA naturally evokes the idea of ​​expatriating to the Moon. Not content with talking about it, the structure says in a press release that it is investing in this idea. He accompanies the famed Artemis lunar exploration program, which plans to send humans back to the moon by 2025.

Indeed, if we have to stay on the moon, the question will arise of the construction of habitable buildings by our species. Therefore, ICON was instructed to think about the construction of landing sites, roads, housing … The contract amount will be about $ 57.2 million, and the mission will last until 2028.

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Purpose: To give impetus to the development of technologies necessary for the mission. “To explore other worlds, we need innovative new technologies tailored to these environments and our research needs,” says Nicky Werkheiser, director of technology development at NASA’s Space Mission Directorate (STMD). “Advancing this development with our business partners will create the capabilities needed for future missions.”

Construction on the Moon… in a “short circuit”

One of the restrictions placed on this moon base project is to build from local materials. “If you’re trying to plan a lunar colony or a lunar base and you have to take everything with you, every time you want to build something new it will cost $100 million,” explained Jason Ballard, co-founder and CEO. ICON, at Payload Media, who published an article on the subject. “But once you have a system that can build almost anything — runways, roads, habitats — and it uses local materials, you probably need two or three orders of magnitude less to establish a permanent presence on the Moon than anywhere else. another way”.

As part of its contract, the company plans to deliver its 3D printing technology to the moon in 2026 as part of the Artemis mission. Then the demonstration will take place on the surface of the moon. The company plans to use lunar regolith, the rocks and dust that make up the Moon’s surface, to create a structure that meets NASA’s drag requirements.

“We feel real weight and responsibility – we are not doing this only for ourselves, we are giving humanity the opportunity to build other worlds,” Jason Ballard said emphatically to Axios. In addition to this lunar project, ICON is already working on Martian habitat concepts in parallel: “ICON 3D printed (3D) a 158 m² simulated Martian habitat called Mars Dune Alpha, which will be used during the NASA Crew Health and Performance Analog mission. or CHAPEA starting in 2023,” NASA says.

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