NASA and ICON, a construction technology company based in Austin, Texas, have teamed up to develop a project that could revolutionize the future of human habitation on the Moon and beyond. The project, called MMPACT (Mars/Moon Planetary Autonomous Construction Technologies), aims to create sustainable and resilient 3D-printed structures on the lunar surface using robotic systems and local resources.
3D Printed Houses on the Moon? Cost and Who Can Live
One of the main challenges of building habitats on the Moon is the high cost and difficulty of transporting materials and equipment from Earth. According to NASA, it costs about $10,000 to send one pound of material to low-Earth orbit, and much more to send it to the Moon. Therefore, using materials that are already available on the lunar surface, such as rocks, dust, and ice, could significantly reduce the cost and environmental impact of lunar construction.
Another challenge is the harsh environment of the Moon, which exposes structures to extreme temperatures, radiation, micrometeorites, and seismic activity. To withstand these conditions, structures need to be durable, adaptable, and resilient. 3D printing offers a solution that can create complex shapes and geometries that are optimized for strength and efficiency.
Moreover, 3D printing on the Moon could enable more design freedom and customization for the habitats, as well as faster and safer construction. 3D printing could also facilitate the involvement of multiple stakeholders, such as scientists, engineers, architects, artists, and even the public, in the design process.
How Does It Work?
The MMPACT project is still in its early stages and may evolve over time. However, the current plan is to launch a large-scale 3D printer called Vulcan to the lunar orbit, where it will dock with a Gateway station that serves as a command and control module. From there, Vulcan will descend to the lunar surface and print structures using a proprietary material called Lavacrete, which is made from lunar regolith (soil), water, and additives.
Lavacrete is prepared by a portable mixing unit called Magma, which ingests dry regolith, hydrates it, and adjusts the formula in real time based on the conditions at the build site. Magma then pumps Lavacrete to Vulcan for printing. Vulcan can print structures up to 3,000 square feet in size without relocation, and can produce homes faster and more affordably than conventional methods.
The MMPACT project also involves developing other technologies that are essential for lunar habitation, such as power systems, life support systems, communication systems, and robotic assistants. NASA is working with universities and private companies to create these technologies, as well as designing the doors, tiles, furniture, and other components of the habitats.
Goal of the MMPACT
The ultimate goal of the MMPACT project is not only to create habitats for astronauts on the Moon, but also for ordinary people who may want to visit or live there in the future. The project also serves as a stepping stone for exploring other planetary bodies, such as Mars.
The MMPACT project is one of the most ambitious and exciting endeavors in human history. It could change the way we think about our place in the universe and our relationship with our home planet. It could also open up new opportunities for discovery, adventure, and creativity.
What do you think about this project? Do you think it is feasible and desirable? Would you like to live in a 3D-printed home on the Moon? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.