Scientists with NASA and ESA are working on a 3D printer to exist independently on the moon! 3D printing has successfully hardened regolith (lunar soil, also referred to as “moon dust”) in the printing process. From the pages of your favorite science fiction novel to you e-paper, colonizing the moon is no longer an abstract fantasy. In fact, 3D printers are a key component in making this idea into a reality. Inflatable, dome-shaped structures with connectors will provide a base for which a space station will attach. Like soil on earth, layers of hardened regolith offers insulation for temperature control and provides a protective barrier against radiation.
Another idea is to harness solar energy to microwave regolith. The metallic particles in the regolith react to the heat of the microwaves in a process known as sintering. When used stacked immediately after sintering, blocks of regolith fuse into one another as they cool. This method would eliminate the need for glue by creating a singular, solid structure from several small individual parts.
The independence of the 3D printer is based on the same robotic principles as the Rover. An externally monitored and controlled computer would dictate the printer’s production. Manufacturing bricks of regolith is just the beginning of 3D printing’s role in colonizing the moon.
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