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Friday, February 1, 2013

Architecture on the Moon


By Teresa Simon
Photography: courtesy European Space Agency & Foster+Partners

3D Printing Technology, European Space Agency, Foster + Partners, habitat on the moon, lunar soil, regolith
Lunar outpost near the moon's south pole

Did the Aston Martin in the recent Skyfall pique your curiosity about a technologically driven future? Well, a structure on the moon will definitely blow you then! 

We've heard of teleportation and are awaiting its manifestation in reality, away from the celluloid world. In the meantime, 3D printing technology otherwise known as additive layer manufacturing that can manifest a digitally generated 3-dimensional form into solid reality, is being gainfully exploited by the European Space Agency and architect firm Foster + Partners, who have worked on designing a habitat on the moon.

3D Printing Technology, European Space Agency, Foster + Partners, habitat on the moon, lunar soil, regolith
The outpost is designed as a modular system which can be extended in the future

Addressing the challenges of transporting materials to the moon, the study is investigating the use of lunar soil, known as regolith, as building matter and the use of 3D printing to construct lunar habitations. 

Foster + Partners has designed a lunar base to house four people, which can offer protection from meteorites, gamma radiation and high temperature fluctuations. The base is first unfolded from a tubular module that can be transported by space rocket. An inflatable dome then extends from one end of this cylinder to provide a support structure for construction. Layers of regolith are then built up over the dome by a robot-operated 3D printer to create a protective shell.

3D Printing Technology, European Space Agency, Foster + Partners, habitat on the moon, lunar soil, regolith
Autonomous robots are used to 3D print a cellular structure that protects the inhabitants
 from gamma radiation, meteorite impacts and extreme temperature fluctuations

To ensure strength while keeping the amount of binding “ink” to a minimum, the shell is made up of a hollow closed cellular structure similar to foam. The geometry of the structure designed by Foster + Partners in collaboration with consortium partners is groundbreaking in demonstrating the potential of 3D printing to create structures that are close to natural biological systems.

3D Printing Technology, European Space Agency, Foster + Partners, habitat on the moon, lunar soil, regolith
1.5 tonne building block produced as a demonstration of 3D printing techniques using lunar soil.
The design is based on a hollow closed-cell structure – reminiscent of bird bone

Simulated lunar soil has been used to create a 1.5 tonne mock-up and 3D printing tests have been undertaken at a smaller scale in a vacuum chamber to echo lunar conditions. The planned site for the base is at the moon’s southern pole, where there is near perpetual sunlight on the horizon.

3D Printing Technology, European Space Agency, Foster + Partners, habitat on the moon, lunar soil, regolith
Mosaic of the lunar south pole from images acquired by ESA's SMART-1 mission

Says Xavier De Kestelier, Partner, Foster + Partners Specialist Modelling Group, “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. It has been a fascinating and unique design process, which has been driven by the possibilities inherent in the material.” 

3D Printing Technology, European Space Agency, Foster + Partners, habitat on the moon, lunar soil, regolith
Monolite D-Shape printer for ESA's 3D-printed lunar base study,
with a mobile printing array of nozzles

3 comments :

  1. All the needs for living in space station are being provided from EARTH only, and GOD created /made EARTH habitat for all human beings and non-human beings with A to Z resources. So why Architecture on MOON whereas half of the world population serviving on earth without Architecture on EARTH.

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  2. This is another way that Star Trek has influenced our thinking. 3D printing is a lot like the replicators on the Enterprise. Why bring building suplys with you when you can use what is allready there. Other printers probably could also create clothing and furniture using the molicules from the regolith.

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