In a report by The New York Times, NASA scientists revealed their ambitious plan to establish 3D-printed houses on the moon by 2040. This timeline is seen as achievable, with NASA continuously hitting milestones along the way. The project involves using a 3D printer to construct structures using lunar concrete made from rock chips, mineral fragments, and moon dust found on the surface.
NASA has partnered with ICON, an Austin-based construction company known for its 3D printing technology. ICON has already successfully created hundreds of structures, including hurricane-resistant houses and homes for the homeless in Austin. The collaboration began in 2020, and ICON received $57 million in funding from NASA in 2022 to develop space-based construction systems.
The challenges of building homes on the moon include the vacuum conditions and radiation levels. ICON’s system will be tested at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in February to assess how it handles these conditions. The structures will also need to withstand micrometeorites and extreme temperatures.
To support the construction of lunar homes, NASA is also working with universities and private companies to develop household items such as doors, tiles, and furniture. Additionally, landing pads will need to be constructed on the lunar surface to facilitate the arrival of rockets carrying the 3D printer. These pads will help mitigate the dust kicked up during landing.
According to NASA, the vision of establishing lunar homes is a pivotal moment in space exploration. It will require robust and resilient systems that can utilize local resources on the moon and other planetary bodies. The ultimate goal is for humans to not only visit but also stay on the moon.
The cost and ownership structure of lunar homes for civilians are still under consideration. The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 declares that no one can own the moon. However, the first steps toward this vision will be taken with the Artemis 2 mission next year, which will send astronauts into orbit around the moon. The Artemis 3 mission, planned for 2025 or 2026, aims to land humans on the lunar South Pole with the help of SpaceX’s Starship.
Everyone involved is excited to work together and believes that with the right people and core capabilities developed, this dream of lunar homes can become a reality.