Replacing parts on a lunar base could pose a major challenge, since resupplying missions will likely be massively expensive and time consuming.
That’s why a group of scientists led by the European Space Agency are exploring ways to 3D print anything from screws to coins using artificial lunar regolith — a simulation, essentially, of moon dust.
Easy Space Oven
The scientists partnered with Austrian company Lithoz to develop a 3D printing technology that first mixes the regolith with a special kind of glue that hardens when exposed to light. Then they 3D print it into a particular shape and bake it inside an oven — similarly to how ceramics are hardened inside a kiln.
“If one needs to print tools or machinery parts to replace broken parts on a lunar base, precision in the dimensions and shape of the printed items will be vital,” says Advenit Makya, an ESA engineer working on the project in an ESA blog post.