The recent launch of the Artemis I mission inaugurates a new stage for human civilization: humanity’s space conquest. The challenges are colossal and numerous, but there is no stopping this titanic quest fueled by curiosity and the love of knowledge. To live in other worlds, we need to answer relevant technical questions related to habitat, food, water, and transportation, among others. In other words, wherever we go to explore the Moon or Mars, we need infrastructure. A Texas company dedicated to 3D printing houses has set out to design a habitat for humans on the Moon and Mars surfaces.
The science and other stuff to know
NASA’s Artemis program has sent its first test mission to the Moon, ushering in a new space age. If all goes well, Artemis will take a human crew back to the Moon in 2025, this time to stay and settle.
Of course, many things must happen first. In addition to succeeding in the previous missions, we need to figure out how to build a viable habitat on the surface of our satellite that will provide shelter for astronauts in the hostile and frigid lunar environment. To achieve this goal, NASA works with companies like ICON — dedicated to 3D printing houses.
After participating in NASA’s 3D Printed Habitat Challenge in 2019, where it demonstrated its ability to design construction models applicable to alien environments, the Texan company received a $57.2 million economic incentive from NASA in recent days. ICON will use these funds to develop its Olympus Project, which consists of a construction system in space.
Also, the company co-developed the Mars Dune Alpha, an approximately 1,700-square-foot (520-square-meter) 3D-printed habitable module intended to house astronauts on Mars. The advantage of ICON and NASA’s collaboration to bring 3D printing technology to the Moon and Mars is in the additive construction methodology’s technical advantage for the mission. The method eliminates planetary transportation of large quantities of construction material to faraway worlds.
Corky Clinton, Associate Director of the Marsh Office of Science and Technology, says, “we want to increase the level of technological readiness and test systems to demonstrate that it would be feasible to develop a large-scale 3D printer that could build infrastructure on the Moon or Mars.”
“To be successful in our future missions, we need to invest in new and cutting-edge technologies today,” Niki Werkheiser, Director of Technology Maturation, said in an official NASA statement in 2020. “Research and development in the near term will help ensure that we can expand construction capabilities on other worlds when the time comes,” she added. “Joining forces and sharing costs across multiple government agencies allows us to accelerate the development timeline and bring to fruition core capabilities in which we have a common interest. Together, we will help mature technologies that will have benefits for humanity, on Earth and in space,” she maintains.