Apr 21, 2016 | By Benedict

According to the head of its national Center for the Study of Natural Substances, Russia could use 3D printing and a patented “gyroscopic mill” to build a habitable base on the polar region of the Moon. Settlers would create a powdered 3D printing material from processed lunar regolith.

Map of the lunar south pole

These days, the science of space exploration is so strongly concerned with Mars—and whether humans might someday form a colony on it—that the lunacy of the twentieth century “Space Race” seems all but forgotten. However, while the prospect of sending a manned spacecraft to the Red Planet is an extremely exciting one, Russia’s Center for the Study of Natural Substances has refocused some of its attention on Earth’s only natural satellite, the Moon, in the hope that a human settlement could be established there.

According to Vyacheslav Bobin, head of Russia's Center for the Study of Natural Substances, the possibility of forming a human settlement on the Moon is not as remote as some people think. Location, however, is critical: while Moon rovers have thus far been deployed near the 130 °C lunar equator, it is the polar regions of the Moon which could potentially provide a more suitable human base. Some scientists have speculated that there could be enormous sheets of ice in these colder areas of the Moon, providing humans with the water and oxygen necessary to survive.

If Russia could locate a suitable spot for a human settlement, Bobin believes that 3D printing could be used to create lunar homes. “This idea was originally proposed by the European Space Agency," he told World Crunch. “The walls of a lunar settlement built from regolith mixed with periclase (MgO) are capable of withstanding extreme temperature fluctuations and provide protection against meteors…3D printers are already capable of constructing a lunar settlement of approximately 600 cubic meters in volume—all in just seven to 10 days.”

Perhaps the biggest challenge that scientists would face when attempting to build a 3D printed lunar settlement would be attaining a suitable material. While lunar regolith—the layer of loose rocks and dust covering the Moon’s surface—could form the basis of such a 3D printing material, processing the regolith into a usable form would be extremely difficult. Bobin, however, believes that Russia’s patented “gyroscopic mill” could hold the key. "Instead of using gravity to crush soil samples, the mill uses gyroscopic force, which is not dependent on gravity." he explained. "If we adopt these technologies, then we can truly be ahead of the world by a decade.”

Artist's impression of the Russian Luna-Glob module

Russia’s new lunar program, which could lay the foundations for a 3D printed Moon habitat, envisions four launches, the first of which has been named Luna-Glob, or Luna-25. Luna-Glob will, in 2019, land in the Boguslawsky crater near the Moon’s southern pole, in order to obtain samples. The following three Luna journeys will explore further areas of the southern pole in order to determine their potential habitability.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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