The European Space Agency (ESA) has been successful in proving the feasibility of 3D printing using lunar material, and outlined its mission to 3D print an entire lunar base. In partnership with other players in the industry, the ESA investigated the possibilities of using 3D printing robots for purposes of building semi-spherical structures on the moon's surface.
More discussions recently took place during a 2-day Additive Manufacturing for Space Applicationsworkshop at the technical center of ESA located in Noordwijk, Netherlands. During this conference, its 350 experts explored the possibilities of transforming the space industry and started preparing common standards for its utilization.
3D printing has the potential of facilitating lunar settlement with a reduction of logistics from the Earth. This work opens new possibilities that may then be considered by the international space agencies as part of their ongoing development of a common strategy for exploration.
The base's location had been planned along the rim of the Shackleton Crater on the south pole of the moon. Its vicinity would enable near-constant solar power because of the position of the crater at the "peak of eternal light". Every living pod would be big enough to fit 4 people and would have thick walls designed to shield astronauts from harmful radiation.
The technique for construction developed would mean that ninety per cent of the materials required for building the structure are already in existence on the moon. While plans for this lunar base are still on the drawing board, it is ESA's belief that this important step in eventually creating a colony on the moon could be realized in the next 40 years.