Additive Printing Space Habitats

Back view of lunar astronaut opens a beer bottle while resting in a beach chair on Moon surface, enjoying view of Earth

There you are on the moon or Mars, ready for some intensive research projects but also really tired of hanging out in your spacecraft. How will you build a home for yourself and your fellow astronauts to use while you sojourn in space?

Using earth approaches

As our forebears moved out into new habitats, they looked around for materials to use in building, and they used the skills they already had. They built sod homes on the prairies and log cabins in the woods.

Today’s astronauts generally haven’t ever built a home, and neither the moon nor Mars has any obviously useful materials to work with.

21st century explorers will have to come up with something completely new. Fortunately, NASA has an idea.

Robots to the rescue

Additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, is a real possibility. China has already made buildings created from terra cotta, 3-D printed into blocks and then built into structures.

Automated Architecture and Manufacturing

NASA is currently working on just that. There are some challenges, though.

For one thing, technicians can’t actually try out the local minerals. Using samples from the moon and data from observations on Mars, they’ve come up with mixtures similar to cement but with the chemical composition they expect to meet in space.

They’re printing out structures from their closest approximations to alien concrete. They’re planning to house human beings in these buildings to see how they work.

The model homes are in Texas. While Texas may be known for challenging weather conditions, it’s not the moon. It’s certainly not Mars. NASA is hoping that the experiment gives some insights into how well it would work to build human dwellings from alien materials with the help of a 3-D printer.

Motion control

Success depends on excellent motion control. We may not know much about construction in space, but we know about motion control. Rexroth makes some of the best motion control systems on this particular planet, and we specialize in Rexroth systems.

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