Researchers Want to 3D-Print With Moon Dust

Agencies eye economical lunar base material

Image Credits: ESA–G. Porter, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.

To support a potential, future lunar base, researchers at the European Space Agency (ESA) have 3D-printed and baked fake Moon dust into screws, gears, and even a coin.

Both private and government space agencies have expressed serious intentions and started developing plans to build a human-inhabited base on the Moon. But it takes a lot of fuel, cargo capacity, and money to launch things into space and land them on the moon. And building a lunar base from scratch will take a lot of materials. So, it would be extremely expensive to bring all of these parts from Earth to the moon, especially since repairs would require backup pieces.

This is why researchers are investigating a more sustainable option. Instead of bringing things with, we could just make them there using Moon dust, or regolith, as fodder for a 3D printer. This way, they could cheaply and easily create building materials on the Moon itself. To practice, the ESA team 3D-printed items including screws and gears with fake Moon dust. Though its properties differ from Earthly soil, lunar regolith isn’t too difficult to simulate, and the silicon, aluminum, calcium and iron oxides present can be formed into usable shapes.

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