NASA spacecrafts can be uncomfortable places to live. The sleeping arrangements make an uncomfortable futon appear like a luxury bed. One company might make it possible for astronauts, and later moon tourists, to have a 3D printed home.
It may not qualify into the three L’s of real estate, but Austin-based Icon Technology secured a $57.2 million contract to develop the technology to print 3D homes for the moon. This wouldn’t involve 3D printing the homes on Earth and then strapping them to a rocket like when you see a small house on a flatbed truck.
Instead, ICON would use locally available Lunar dirt and rock — or regolith, as geologists like to say — and mine the materials using robotics to help create powdery Moon structures that resemble futuristic igloos.
“To change the space exploration paradigm from ‘there and back again’ to ‘there to stay,’ we’re 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, ICON co-founder and CEO.
“The final deliverable of this contract will be humanity’s first construction on another world, and that is going to be a pretty special achievement.”
ICON currently uses similar methods to 3D print parts for houses in the States, Mexico and Canada. However, they use materials from Earth, not on the moon. They received the moon contract as part of Phase III of NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, based upon previous NASA funding for ICON’s Project Olympus, which seeks to explore space-based construction systems in order to support future exploration of the Moon and beyond.
The company has already begun producing a 3D-printed prototype called Mars Dune Alpha to simulate a realistic Mars habitat and help train astronauts for long-duration missions. It includes crew quarters and workstations as well as common lounge areas and food growing stations. Sounds nice enough, but there’s no solariums or Holodeck, if you’re wondering.
The Artemis program mission to create a permanent base camp on Moon in the next ten years is clearly offset by the need for greyish Moon homes. At the moment it’s not entirely comfortable up there, just some footprints and leftover equipment and a flag.
Source: Icon Technology