Feb 5, 2016 | By Kira

Audi is building a 3D printed rover so we can drive on the Moon, and the ESA wants us to 3D print houses for living up there. But first year computer-science student Thatcher Chamberlin is content just to 3D print the Moon, if only to learn a bit about it’s surface and have something cool to show off. That’s why he created Moon2STL, a website that allows users to virtually ‘walk’ across the surface of the Moon, and then select a portion to 3D print.

Moon2STL uses data from the Unified Lunar Control Network 2005, a topographical model of the lunar surface, provided online by the US Geological Survey. Made from a network of photos derived from Earth-based and Apollo photographs, as well as Mariner 10 and Galileo images, it is one of the largest planetary control networks ever completed. It offers images at a resolution of 16 pixels per degree or about 1895 meters per pixel on the equator.

Tapping into this great resource, Chamberlin imported the entire lunar topographical map as an STL file. Through the Moon2STL website, users maneuver Google Maps to navigate Moon’s surface, zooming in to view the bumps and craters in detail, or zooming-out for better perspective. Users can also toggle between the 'Elevation' or 'Visible' views. The images are quite high resolution, and, personally, represent the closest I’ve ever come to ‘walking’ on the Moon.

Of course, exploring the Moon on-screen is one thing, but holding it in your hands is another. Thus, Chamberlin has designed the site so that users can easily select whichever part of the Moon they like, and 3D print it. The fact that it’s already an STL file makes things even easier. In fact, Chamberlin has laid out just four simple steps for getting your own 3D printed Moon surface:

  1. Set the dimensions of the box using the scale slider
  2. Change the vertical scale for a more interesting-looking model
  3. Place a marker on certain location
  4. Switch between visible and height views in the top left

This is in fact Chamberlin’s second data-importing project. His first, Terrain2STL, was based on a very similar concept, allowing users to 3D print the Earth’s terrain using data from Google Maps. Just like Moon2STL, his program converted the map data into STL files, processing the elevation at various points, so they can easily be 3D printed. Chamberlin’s other projects include a gravity and galaxy simulator and a tool for decoding weather sattelite signals.

Image from the Unified Lunar Control Network 2005

Surprisingly, despite his dedicated work in the 3D printing field, Chamberlin himself does not own a 3D printer, so there are no images of what a 3D printed Moon surface looks like. Nevertheless, overwhelmingly positive feedback on projects seems to indicate that he’s done a great job converting the topographical data to STL, and presenting it via an easy-to-use website. When he posted the Moon2STL project on Reddit earlier this week, several commenters said that they’d used his Terrain2STL site multiple times, and were eager to give Moon2STL a shot. Whether for educational purposes or just for personal exploration, both offer a great way to physically explore areas that are too far to access in real life.

For some other great ways to 3D print the universe at home, check out these DIY 3D printed galaxy marbles, or you can 3D print a detailed model of the Rosetta Comet.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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BiggestFanofThatcher! wrote at 2/8/2016 1:50:27 AM:

Sooooooo awesomeeeee!!!!!

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