The China National Space Administration (CNSA) has announced plans to be the first country to establish a base on the moon, and it will be built using 3D printing technology.
CNSA officials made the declaration yesterday in Beijing during a press conference for the State Council Information Office (SCIO). This conference was held following the Chinese lunar exploration mission, Chang’e 4, that achieved the first soft landing on the far side of the Moon, at the beginning of this year.
Will the Chinese 3D print a house on the moon?
“Experts are still discussing and verifying the feasibility of subsequent projects. “We will make the decision according to the performance of Chang’e-5,” said Wu Yanhua, deputy head of the CNSA, who confirmed the launch of another lunar exploration (Chang’e 5), at the end of this year.
“We hope [to] test some technologies, and do some exploring for the building of a joint lunar base shared by multiple countries. For example, can we build houses on the moon with lunar soil using 3D printing technology?”
3D printing an extraterrestrial habitat
Created in 1993, the CNSA was established as a government institution to develop and realize China’s international obligations regarding space activities. After the success of the Chang’e 4, the CNSA has announced three successive missions that will further explore this uncharted lunar surface.
These missions will be designed to retrieve samples from the South Pole of the moon. This will ultimately assess the viability of building the 3D printed houses.
Furthermore, the CNSA staff claimed that the cost of the Chang’e 4 mission was equivalent to building one kilometer of an underground railway. Wu added, “We also have plans to send a probe to Mars in 2020.”
Colonizing space with additive manufacturing
The CNSA is among many others that plan to colonize space using 3D printing. Previously, NASA collaborated with the University of Central Florida (UCF) in order to find a way of 3D printing structures on Mars. The researchers concluded that Martian soil (regolith) could be processed into a chamber which would be heated to approximately 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1648°C) to produce oxygen and molten metal.
Research company Fotec, part of the University of Applied Sciences in Austria, has also made steps towards 3D printed structures in space with a 3D printed miniature igloo and corner of a wall in a composite material containing “Mars dust”. The objects were created as part of the Technology Research Program at the European Space Agency (ESA).