This Is What The First Lunar Base Could Really Look Like

We have seen many concepts, but this is the most realistic plan yet for humanity's first Moon Base. It will be more efficient and cheaper to build than any other alternative, as it uses 3D printing to quickly transform raw lunar soil into habitable domes.

Also? It looks awesome.

The lunar soil structure will provide both radiation and temperature insulation. Inside, a lightweight pressurised inflatable with the same dome shape will be the living environment for the first human moon settlers.

The European Space Agency and architectural firm Foster + Partners are now working on the technology to make this a reality. According to ESA's human spaceflight team's Scott Hovland: "3D printing offers a potential means of facilitating lunar settlement with reduced logistics from Earth."

The logic is that if 90 per cent of the stuff we need to build the base is already on the moon, we only have to ferry the 3D-printing robots (you can look at one below) and the lightweight parts, like the inflatables and the solid connector and entry segments. This will make this idea a lot cheaper than the alternatives.

Xavier De Kestelier of Foster + Partners Specialist Modelling Group says that their construction 3D-printing technology has already produced entire structures under extreme conditions on Earth, so it's perfectly reasonable to do the same up there:

As a practice, we are used to designing for extreme climates on Earth and exploiting the environmental benefits of using local, sustainable materials. Our lunar habitation follows a similar logic.

The team has already came up with a way to use the same technologies under the Moon's environmental conditions, devising "a weight-bearing ‘catenary' dome design with a cellular structured wall to shield against micrometeoroids and space radiation, incorporating a pressurised inflatable to shelter astronauts. A hollow closed-cell structure -- reminiscent of bird bones -- provides a good combination of strength and weight." They produced this 1.4-tonne sample as a demonstration of how these hollow cell walls would work:

That block is all built with simulated lunar material and magnesium oxide. That turns the moonstuff into a pulp that can be sprayed to form the block. Then, they apply a binding salt that "converts [this] material into a stone-like solid." Quite impressive.

According to Enrico Dini -- the founder of UK-based Monolite, the company that builds the 3D building printers -- they are now printed at 2m per hour. He says that their next generation will speed up to 3.5m per hour, which is enough to complete an entire building in one week.

If they keep up that kind of progress, a full structure on the moon will be a reality within our lifespans.


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    I love how they talk about this, But i'd love to see someone anyone do it i mean we got there it's now the 21st century we have twice the technology that we had in 1969 and i mean if say a few nations put aside there differences to pool cash together to achieve this monumental moment for human history then there isn't anything that could stop us. unfortunately the human race is very warlike and Stubborn to put it. and nations have large resentments towards each other, it's like asking the person that bullied you at school to help with homework

      Seriously, do they not teach grammar in schools anymore?

        Natzies every where

          You spelled Nazis wrong, and everywhere is one word. -______-

    Yeah they say in our lifespan but who's lifespan, people in their 30's 20's, our kids. Most likely our kids kids.

    whats the point of building a stonelike solid thats not air tight? you still need the blow up living quarters, so why not just bury which would provide the same protectiont instead of wasting time building blocks?

    also, lunar dust is really fine - working with it in a low weight environment is not going to be the same as the simulated material they are working with under earth gravity - their machine better be either completely enclosed and not allow dust in, or work very well at getting dust out.

      Valid points regarding dust and gravity, but I'm pretty sure they would have thought of them too.

      As for going underground, I'd guess it's because the machinery required to excavate such a significant area is likely to be much larger and more cumbersome than one of the robotic 3D printers pictured above. Unless we just give the astronauts a shovel each. You want protection from the sun's lethal radiation? Dig, damn you!

        Settler training to assess if potential candidates can dig a hole fast enough to survive their first night? Minecraft!

        3d print a shovel then :)

          3D print some diggers

      Pretty sure point of a simulated material is that it simulates the original... And seeing as how they have the original stored away from the Apollo missions I'm sure they've managed to figure that out.

      What would you dig a hole with? Mining requires heavy machinery, drill rigs and explosives. You could just plow a rocket into the ground but if you needed more than one hole you're going to make a mess. However, if you can convert soft, easily collectible dust and turn it into a building material why would you bother digging?

        how do you simulate low g on earth? the material behaces completely differently - much more fluidic as it floats around

          Umm, the material doesn't behave differently, it behaves the same just on a much smaller scale.. The moon still has gravity, just not much of it!!

          I was going to say props for creativity but it turns out Fluidic is actually a word, although you've used it in the wrong context.

    of course it behaves differently - on the moon it would be able to float for a much longer period in the 'air' as it were, before being pulled back down to the ground. that longer time in the air gives it more opportunity to get stuck in spaces it shouldnt go.

    These issues would no doubt be better addressed to the engineers involved in the printers development, for a more qualified answer. However, I don't see much issue with it working in reduced gravity. Material is collected, ground or sieved to the correct consistency, (heated?) treated with the magnesium oxide/binding salts and laid down. No part of that process need have the material floating around un-contained in powdered form.

      my point is, moon dust is hella fine as it is - you wouldnt need to sieve it and you possible couldnt grind it any finer. astronauts complained about it getting in to their suits and joints, and i believe if you inhaled the stuff, it is like asbestos in that it coats your lungs and is carcinogenic

        Because there is no wind or water erosion in action on the moon all the dust particles are sharp and jagged, which is bad news for helmet visors, bearings and other moving parts. And no doubt bad for lungs too. But these problems were factored into the Apollo missions 40 years ago so its not like engineers haven't got solutions to them.
        The moon isn't completely coated in dust of a perfectly uniform consistency. If you're going to collect it and run it through a 3D printer you would need to screen out the larger particles.

    Ain't gonna happen. The aliens mining the dark side of the moon warned the US government off, back in the 70's. Why do you think they haven't returned after 40 years?

    On the dust issue; There would not be an issue with dust remaining suspended. Without air, dust cannot spread out and settle or waft about as there is no resistance at all. None. It just spurts up like a jet of water and goes back down again. There was a classic experiment where a hammer and a feather were dropped at the same time on the moon to prove the point. Both hit the ground at the same time but both had different masses.

    The issues of lunar soil on the suits ect was mainly from static if I remember right, and it's not all that fine (not in Earth terms) which was mentioned earlier.

    On another note, there was a idea to use rovers with microwave "wands" on the back to heat up the little balls of iron found in the soil to melt the tiny glass/silica beads to make a solid highway or crust to drive on. I could see something similar being used to make these 3D printers work. Very cool.

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