London-based design firm Foster+Partners aims to partner-up with the European Space Agency, and build structures on the Moon from the regolith found on the surface. The inflatable scaffolding would be manufactured on Earth, then transported to the Moon and covered with a durable shell constructed by robotically-driven 3D printers.
All images courtesy Foster+Partners.
This is such a brilliant idea. The scheme would take advantage of the raw materials already found on the lunar surface, while at the same time offering a highly scalable and efficient model for construction.
Indeed, the idea of using the lunar dust — known as regolith — has been considered for many years. And in fact, back in 2010, researchers from Washington State University discovered that artificial regolith — a compound consisting of silicon, aluminium, calcium, iron, and magnesium — could be used by 3D printers to create solid objects, including tools.
Should the plan be put into action, a research expedition or colony would set up base in the southern polar regions of the Moon where sunlight is constant.
During construction, the base would be inflated to become a dome to provide the initial scaffolding. Layers of 3D printed material would be iteratively layered over the dome to create a strong, protective shell. To ensure strength, the structure would be made of hollow closed-cellular structures.
Each house would be able to accommodate four people, and could be extended should the need arise.
For now, Foster+Partners is still in the design and proof-of-concept phase. So to that end, they're looking to create a smaller version using artificial regolith in a vacuum chamber.