It might be a lot easier to set up a lunar base than you thought
Setting up a lunar base could be made much simpler by using a 3D printer to build it from local materials. Industrial partners including renowned architects Foster + Partners have joined with ESA to test the feasibility of 3D printing using lunar soil.
This is a case where 3d printing would win out over regular manufacturing. Most of the material is lunar dirt but with added magnesium oxide and a binding ink. This greatly reduces the weight of the material to be brought to the moon. There has been previous work on using carbon nanotubes and epoxy to make lunar concrete.
Foster + Partners devised a weight-bearing ‘catenary’ dome design with a cellular structured wall to shield against micrometeoroids and space radiation, incorporating a pressurised inflatable to shelter astronauts.
A hollow closed-cell structure – reminiscent of bird bones – provides a good combination of strength and weight.
The base’s design was guided in turn by the properties of 3D-printed lunar soil, with a 1.5 tonne building block produced as a demonstration. . . .