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Published on Saturday, 08 November 2014 15:59
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Moon H 410px 08-11-14It could be the first human settlement on another planet.

European Space Agency bosses have revealed a video tour of the moonbase they hope could see its first visitor in 40 years.

It will be made from an inflatable done covered in lunar soil by robots to create a safe structure, and will have room for four to live and work.

ESA teamed up with architectural firm Foster + Partners in a bid to set the wheels in motion for a permanent human presence on Earth's only natural satellite.

And experts say it could be ready for humans to move in within the next 40 years.

Autonomous robots will be used to 3D print a cellular structure to house four people, and can offer protection from meteorites, gamma radiation and vast temperature fluctuations.

The ESA's human spaceflight team's Scott Hovland said: '3D printing offers a potential means of facilitating lunar settlement with reduced logistics from Earth.'

The theory is that 90 per cent of the materials needed to build the structure already exists on the Moon, so only the robots and light-weight parts, such as inflatables and the solid connector and entry segments, will have to be ferried from Earth.

The few parts that would need to be made on Earth would be folded from a tubular module that can be transported by space rocket.

To ensure strength while keeping the amount of binding 'ink' to a minimum, the shell is made up of a hollow closed cellular structure similar to foam.

Xavier De Kestelier of Foster + Partners Specialist Modelling Groupsaid; '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.'

They say the 'hollow closed-cell structure' - reminiscent of bird bones - 'provides a good combination of strength and weight.'

The raw lunar material is turned into a pulp and sprayed to form a solid block that is then used to build walls at a rate of around two metres an hour.

Foster + Partners devised a weight-bearing 'catenary' dome design with a cellular structured wall to shield against micrometeoroids and space radiation, incorporating a pressurised inflatable to shelter astronauts.

A hollow closed-cell structure – reminiscent of bird bones – provides a good combination of strength and weight.

3D 'printouts' are built up layer by layer – the company more typically uses its printer to create sculptures and is working on artificial coral reefs to help preserve beaches from energetic sea waves.

'First, we needed to mix the simulated lunar material with magnesium oxide.

'This turns it into 'paper' we can print with,' explained Monolite founder Enrico Dini.

'Then for our structural 'ink' we apply a binding salt which converts material to a stone-like solid.

'Our current printer builds at a rate of around 2 m per hour, while our next-generation design should attain 3.5 m per hour, completing an entire building in a week.'

(DailyMail)

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Inside the moonbase: The module has enough room for four people,. and includes an airlock so a suit mounted on the outside to make getting onto the lunar surface easy. The thick walls protect astronauts from radiation and meteorites.Built by robots: The structure will house four people, and can offer protection from meteorites, gamma radiation and vast temperature fluctuationsAmbitious: The ESA teamed up with architectural firm Foster + Partners in a bid to set the wheels in motion for a permanent human presence on Earth's only natural satelliteAutonomous robots will be used to 3D print a cellular structure fit for habitationMoon brick: Simulated lunar soil has been used to create a 1.5 tonne mockup and 3D printing tests have been undertaken at a smaller scale in a vacuum chamber to echo lunar conditions

3D printing robots in action: The raw lunar material is turned into a pulp and sprayed to form a solid block that is then used to build walls at a rate of around two metres an hour

Ambitious: The ESA teamed up with architectural firm Foster + Partners in a bid to set the wheels in motion for a permanent human presence on Earth's only natural satellite

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 November 2014 12:11

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