China joins US and Europe in considering 3D-printed Moon bases
Chang'e 8 missions will check whether regolith harbors appropriate materials
China's space program has decided to no longer worry about hauling construction materials to the Moon and just 3D print buildings onsite instead, said state-sponsored media on Monday.
China Daily said the Chang'e 8 lunar mission would conduct onsite investigations to see if lunar materials would be appropriate for the job. Wu Weiren, a leading scientist at the China National Space Administration (CNSA), told the outlet that lunar soil would be printed into the construction units.
He added that boffins at Tongji University in Shanghai and Xi'an Jiaotong University in Shaanxi Province had "already begun studying the possible applications of 3D printing technology on the Moon."
It is globally understood that astronauts will work and live on the Moon and will need not only infrastructure, but also the ability to repair and construct tools and resources independently.
"If we wish to stay on the Moon for a long time, we need to set up stations by using the Moon's own materials," Wu told China Daily.
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CNSA has had Moon-based 3D printing in mind since at least 2019. Representatives stated in a press conference that the agency was discussing a research base for 3D printing and other technologies with European countries.
NASA is also keen on having its own 3D printing facilities on the Moon. In November last year, the US space agency awarded a $5.2 million contract to Texas startup Icon to build space-based construction systems.
The European Space Agency (ESA) has also considered multiple sources of raw materials for building on the Moon, including materials mixed with human waste from none other than the astronauts who will occupy the region.
China achieved its first lunar landing in 2013. Chang'e 8 is expected to launch in 2028 after Chang'e 6 and 7. China plans to place an astronaut on the lunar surface by 2030. ®