Foster + Partners, in conjunction with the European Space Agency (ESA), has undertaken a study to explore the possibilities of using 3D printing to construct lunar habitations on the moon's southern pole (where there is near perpetual sunlight). The firm has already designed a lunar base that could house four people, and has begun to test the structure in a vacuum chamber that echoes lunar conditions.
The shell of the base, which has a hollow closed cellular structure inspired by natural biological systems, should be able to protect potential inhabitants from "meteorites, gamma radiation and high temperature fluctuations." According to Xavier De Kestelier, Partner at Foster + Partners, the firm is "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 study will also address the challenges of transporting materials to the moon, and is investigating the use of lunar soil, known as regolith, as the potential building matter.
More details from Foster + Partners' Press Release, after the break:
"The practice 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.
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 was designed by Foster + Partners in collaboration with consortium partners – it is groundbreaking in demonstrating the potential of 3D printing to create structures that are close to natural biological systems."
Story via Foster + Partners