NASA is exploring the possibility of building houses on the moon, and it could be as soon as 2040.
The space agency has partnered with ICON, a technology company pioneering the future of homebuilding using 3-D printing, to develop a system that could actually construct homes on the moon, and, eventually, on Mars. With NASA’s funding, ICON plans to create a 3-D printer that will build lunar structures solely using materials available on the moon, including rock chips, mineral fragments and other components of moon dust.
“To change the space exploration paradigm from ‘there and back again’ to ‘there to stay,’ we’re going to need robust, resilient, and broadly capable systems that can use the local resources of the Moon and other planetary bodies,” said ICON Co-Founder and CEO Jason Ballard in a statement. “We’re pleased that our research and engineering to-date has demonstrated that such systems are indeed possible, and we look forward to now making that possibility a reality. The final deliverable of this contract will be humanity’s first construction on another world, and that is going to be a pretty special achievement.”
One dilemma with building infrastructure on the moon is that it is not financially sustainable to transport construction materials back and forth from Earth. That’s why ICON is adjusting its 3-D home construction technology to be compatible with the moon’s surface. Rather than pouring concrete and water through a traditional nozzle, the lunar 3-D printer will melt the moon’s natural materials with a high-intensity laser and transform it into building material.
To make sure the lunar construction system can withstand the unique environment of the moon, NASA and ICON plan to lower the 3-D printer into NASA’s thermal vacuum chamber that mimics the moon’s conditions. If the technology responds as intended, there’s a chance that the first off-world houses could be built on the moon sooner than later.
To learn more about ICON’s lunar home construction project, click here.