NASA spacecraft tend not to be the most comfortable places to live, and they have sleeping arrangements that make an uncomfortable futon look like a luxurious bed. One company may one day make it easier for astronauts and eventually moon tourists to stretch out a bit in a 3D-printed house.
It may not qualify in the three L’s of real estate, but Austin-based Icon Technology has secured a $57.2 million contract to develop the technology to 3D print houses for the moon. This wouldn’t involve 3D printing houses on Earth and then strapping them onto a rocket like when you see a tiny house on a flatbed truck.
Instead, ICON would use locally available lunar soil and rocks, or regolith, as geologists like to say, and mine the materials using robotics to help create dusty lunar structures that resemble futuristic igloos.
“To shift the space exploration paradigm from ‘there and back’ to ‘there to stay’, we are going to need robust, resilient, and broadly capable systems that can use the local resources of the Moon and other planetary bodies.” said Jason Ballard, Co-Founder and CEO of ICON.
“The end result of this contract will be humanity’s first construction on another world, and that will be quite a special achievement.”
ICON currently applies similar methods to 3D printing parts for houses in the United States and Mexico, obviously using materials from the Earth, not the moon. They were awarded the lunar contract as part of Phase III of NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, building on NASA’s previous funding for ICON’s Project Olympus, which seeks to explore space-based building systems. to support future exploration of the Moon and beyond.
The company has already begun producing a 3D-printed prototype called the Mars Dune Alpha to simulate a realistic habitat on Mars and help train astronauts for long-duration missions. The structure includes crew quarters, work stations, common rest areas, and food growing stations. Sounds pretty cool, but there are no sundecks or Holodeck, if you’re wondering.
The need for grayish lunar homes is a clear offset to the Artemis program’s mission to establish a permanent base camp on the Moon in the next decade. At the moment it’s not entirely comfortable up there, just some footprints and remains of equipment and a flag.
Source: Icon Technology
Via: PC Mag