All images: Foster + Partners
Having conquered the world of architecture on earth, Foster + Partners have their sights set on last frontier for their latest project. The firm has released plans for a 3D-printed moon base that will be constructed using lunar soil (nerd speak: "regolith"). Designed in conjunction with the European Space Agency, the lunar homes will have space for up to four and will feature a hard printed shell to shield the inhabitants from the elements, of the galactic variation that is: namely, meteorite showers, gamma radiation, and extreme temperature changes.
Foster + Partners were responsible for the design of the base's modular living units. These structures, pressured, inflatable capsules containing various living spaces, would be transported along with the 3D printer aboard a space rocket. Once landed, the tubular modules would be unpacked and inflated; the robot-controlled-printer would then print a regolith shell layer by layer directly over each lodging, effectively burying it in a thick protective crust of lunar soil.
Working with a consortium of engineers, the architects have already constructed a 1.5-ton scale mockup, which they built in a vaccuum chamber to simulate space conditions. The team used a D-Shape printer---the largest 3D printer in the world---to print and test the material strength of the design. They devised a "hollow closed cellular structure" that proved sufficiently strong while reducing the amount of material needed for printing.
“As a practice, we are used to designing for extreme climates on earth and exploiting the environmental benefits of using local, sustainable materials – our lunar habitation follows a similar logic," says Xavier De Kestelier of Foster + Partners. "It has been a fascinating and unique design process, which has been driven by the possibilities inherent in the material. We look forward to working with ESA and our consortium partners on future research projects.”