NASA is collaborating with construction technology company ICON to kickstart developing an off-world construction system that would ensure that man has a sustainable and long-term presence in the moon.
It is part of NASA’s Artemis program, which plans to land the first woman and the next man on the moon by 2024, using innovative technologies to explore the surface of the moon than ever before. And now, as part of its collaboration with commercial and international partners, NASA has set the ball rolling.
NASA has always emphasized the need to establish a more sustained presence in the moon so as to enable astronauts to study the moon more. In line with this objective, it plans to set up a lunar terrain vehicle, habitable mobility platform, and surface habitat in the moon by the end of the decade.
The entire construction objective in the moon is a huge plan that needs certain things in place, one of which includes advanced manufacturing. It is one of the key industries that will enable space exploration, including creating the needed resources that will allow a man to build infrastructures not just on the Moon, but on Mars as well.
The entire process of construction in the moon will look very different from that of the Earth. Advanced and lightweight equipment such as robots and excavation tools that are capable of drilling in reduced gravity will be critical.
NASA teamed up with ICON, a private firm, to test lunar soil simulant with various 3D printing technologies that could be used in the Moon to build construction infrastructures that will be firmly in position.
ICON already has 3D printed communities of homes and structures on Earth. It also only recently participated in the agency’s Printed Habitat Challenge and demonstrated high-level efficiency to develop technologies that will not only apply here on Earth but have many implications in the drive to conquer space, especially the Moon and Mars.
Jason Ballard, ICON’s founder, and CEO said the company was founded from the outset to tackle construction from outside our planet. He said building a home for humanity outside our planet Earth has always been an ambitious and daring goal, but it was necessary because, to solve our challenges here on Earth, we have to look up to the sky.
Other US agencies have also set sights on the new project. The US Air Force funded research that ICON will undertake. The research seeks to expand 3D printing of livable and workable structures. It also aims to explore the similarities between Earth-based constructions and that of space. NASA is contributing to the funding of this project.
ICON has enlisted the help of other construction and architecture companies to see to the success of this project. They include the BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group and SEArch+ (Space Exploration Architecture).