by General Fabb
NASA's goal is to develop revolutionary technologies to assist in space exploration and they often start the process with funded studies of promising ideas. If these work out, they are developed further, ultimately becoming a reality if they are feasible and beneficial.
One very interesting study in their "Early Stage Innovation" program is entitled, "Contour Crafting Simulation Plan for Lunar Settlement Infrastructure Build-Up". Long-time Fabbaloo readers may recall Contour Crafting from several years ago. It's a project by Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis of the University of Southern California, which designed a mechanism to 3D print houses (or house-sized objects) using concrete.
Now NASA would like to see if this approach could be used for lunar exploration:
This proposal uses a unique architecture weaving an automated building technology called Contour Crafting with designs for assisting rapid buildup of an initial operational capability lunar base. Using CC technology, this proposal intends to draw up a detailed plan for a high-fidelity simulation at NASA’s Desert Research and Technology Studies (D-RATS) facility, to construct certain crucial infrastructure elements in order to evaluate the merits, limitations and feasibility of adapting and using the CC technology for extraterrestrial application. Elements suggested to be built and tested include roads, landing pads and aprons, shade walls, dust barriers, thermal and mm protection shields and dust-free platforms as well as other built up structures utilizing the well known in-situ-resource utilization (ISRU) strategy.
In other words, they're gonna 3D print structures using lunar dust. Why? Because otherwise they'd be hauling bags of cement (or equivalent) from Earth to the Moon. Expensive, yes.
Regardless of whether Khoshnevis's technology is ever used on the lunar surface, this project will definitely give the concept a huge boost. The work done on this test could by implication prove out use on Earth as well.
Can you say, "Spin Off"?