NASA is planning a long-term return to the moon and is aiming to build houses there by 2040, according to seven NASA scientists interviewed for an article in The New York Times. The agency plans to use a 3D printer to build structures on the moon’s surface using a specialized lunar concrete created from rock chips, mineral fragments, and moon dust. NASA’s partnership with construction technology company ICON will help achieve this goal. ICON has previously used 3D printing to build homes on Earth and is working with architects to develop concepts and designs for lunar structures. However, there are challenges to overcome, such as the moon’s abrasive dust and the physics of building in deep space.
The moon has remained uncharted and empty since the last Apollo mission in 1972, but now NASA sees a return as a real possibility. The agency’s Artemis program aims to establish a sustainable human presence on the moon, with plans for five moon missions by the end of the decade. The use of 3D printing technology and partnerships with private companies and universities are key to achieving this goal. NASA scientists acknowledge that their timeline may be overly ambitious, but they are optimistic that with continued progress and collaboration, lunar structures could be a reality by 2040.
One major challenge presented by the moon’s surface is its abrasive dust, which is toxic when inhaled. However, NASA scientists are turning this obstacle into a solution by using the dust to create specialized lunar concrete for 3D printing. The agency has partnered with ICON to develop a space-based construction system capable of printing everything from rocket landing pads to habitats. ICON is known for its 3D printed homes on Earth and has enlisted architects to design concepts for lunar structures. However, the physics of building in space present additional challenges, such as the need to travel light and avoid carrying materials from Earth. Despite these challenges, NASA believes that with proper testing and preparation, building homes on the moon is within reach.
Overall, NASA’s plan to build houses on the moon by 2040 represents a significant step towards establishing a sustainable human presence on our lunar neighbor. The use of 3D printing technology, specialized lunar concrete, and partnerships with private companies are crucial to overcoming the unique challenges presented by the moon’s surface and physics. While some believe the timeline is ambitious, NASA scientists remain hopeful that continued progress and collaboration will make lunar structures a reality within the next two decades.