- NASA will work with ICON to develop a space-based construction system that could support future explorations
- ICON will work under the Moon to Mars Planetary Autonomous Construction Technologies project
- NASA’s Artemis Program aims to send humans again to moon by 2024
NASA has partnered with ICON, a construction technologies company based in Texas, to develop a 3D-printed construction system to help scientists explore the moon in future, the space agency announced Thursday.
As part of the space agency’s Artemis program (a mission that aims to send the first woman and next man to the moon by 2024), a sustained presence needs to be established on the moon in order to allow astronauts to explore more of the lunar surface and do more research. But the process of building roads, habitats and landing pads will be far different from how it occurs here on Earth. For one, the machinery to be used should be able to work under extreme conditions, such as in chilly, permanently shadowed craters on the Moon.
With NASA teaming up with ICON to develop a space-based construction system and create 3D prints of structures designed to withstand conditions beyond Earth, part of its aim is to create the core elements needed by astronauts by the end of the decade. This includes a lunar vehicle to transport the crew around the landing zone, a mobility platform to allow astronauts to take trips across the moon, and a lunar foundation surface habitat, which can house up to four crew members for shorter surface stays, NASA said in a press release.
ICON will work under the Moon to Mars Planetary Autonomous Construction Technologies (MMPACT) project to test lunar soil simulant with a number of processing and printing technologies. If this progresses well, NASA may provide additional funding for ICON and explore the opportunity to perform an in-situ (on-site) test on the lunar surface.
“We want to increase the technology readiness level and test systems to prove it would be feasible to develop a large-scale 3D printer that could build infrastructure on the Moon or Mars,” said Corky Clinton, associate director of Marshall’s Science and Technology Office, said in the release.
The team will also work to ensure sustainable lunar presence through the utilization of local materials and by converting lunar ice into drinkable water and other resources.