Villages on the Moon: ISRO to build lunar base with 3D printing

Setting up 3D-printed villages on the Moon might sound odd for now, but space agencies like ISRO, NASA and ESA are taking it very seriously.  

Mansi Joshi Mar 13th 2018

If you thought NASA, ESA and Elon Musk are the top players in the space race, think again. Yes, Elon Musk’s SpaceX might be a too futuristic with its plans to colonize Mars. But, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is reportedly planning to build lunar habitats on the Moon.

According to a Times of India report, the Indian space research agency has set its eyes on building igloos on the Earth’s natural satellite.

However, ISRO is not the only player in the ring. European Space Agency and NASA have also expressed similar plans of setting up 3D-printed habitats on the Moon, which will replace the International Space Station (ISS).

ESA researchers have been experimenting with the technology since 2013 to produce structures which could serve as habitable lunar villages.

The idea – these igloos or ‘lunar villages’ could be used for research and future experiments, and as a base for missions to the planet Mars.  Also, it could be a successor to the orbiting ISS – due to be decommissioned in 2024.

According to reports, the European space agency plans to play a leading role in the establishment of lunar villages, and additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3D-printing will drive it.

In a statement to TOI, M Annadurai, who is the director of ISRO Satellite Centre, said many countries are considering building permanent bases on the Moon and India wants to contribute too. The plan is to send robots and 3D printers to the Moon, which will use lunar soil and other materials to create habitats on its surface.

Tweet: Indian Space Research Organisation @isro will send #Robots and #3Dprinting printers to the #moon, which will use lunar soil and other materials to create habitats on its surface, says @CompworldIndia

The International Space Station already has two 3D printers on board, installed by American company Made in Space. According to NASA, the technology could be a cost-effective way to manufacture parts on the ISS. Long-term space missions would need manufacturing capacities to replace faulty parts.

3D printing offers the advantage of minimizing weight, which is an extremely important factor that affects an aircraft’s payload, safety and speed. It creates parts using less components – layer by layer, which dramatically reduces weight and waste.

With ISRO joining the ranks of international space players focused on lunar villages, it won’t be long before 3D printing transforms manufacturing on Earth and beyond.