Space scientists plan to turn lunar dust into raw material for 3D printers to build colonies and landing pads on the Moon.
The project led by scientists from the Laser Center Hannover (LZH) and the Technical University of Berlin (TU Berlin), located in Germany, has already been successfully tested on Earth.
Now Project Moonrise experts plan to repeat the experiment with a trip to the surface of the Moon.
Scientists say that by melting moon dust with a special laser, it can be converted into raw material for 3D printers to construct buildings, roads and landing pads.
Moonrise experts say the alternative – bringing buildings to the Moon from Earth – is just too expensive.
Jorg Neumann, Director of Moonrise at LZH, explained, “At a cost of up to $1 million per kilogram, a full transport of material from Earth to the Moon would be extremely expensive.
Pulverized moon rock, or regolith, on the other hand, is abundant on the Moon and could be used as a raw material for 3D printing, according to the Moonrise team.
And fabricating infrastructure on site could save huge transportation costs.
The use and processing of on-site materials – also known as in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) in spaceflight – could be a crucial factor in advancing the exploration of the Moon and space. .
The laser treatment, according to the team, will result in the production of regolith.
In the statement obtained by Zenger News, the Project Moonrise team said, “Billionaires aren’t the only ones who want to send high-paying guests around the Moon.
“The European Space Agency (ESA) also has plans for a ‘lunar village’.
“This is because the far side of the Moon, which is always facing away from Earth, would be suitable for powerful space telescopes.
“Additionally, the lower gravity and lack of atmosphere make the Moon an ideal stopover for setting up missions to more distant destinations in space.
“But how will launch pads, landing sites and buildings be constructed on the lunar surface?”
The foundations of the project are already laid.
In the previous project funded by the Volkswagen Foundation, the research team developed a compact and robust laser and successfully tested it in the laboratory on the robotic arm of a lunar rover.
Scientists have also succeeded in melting regolith under the effect of lunar gravity in the Einstein-Elevator at the HiTEC (Hannover Institute of Technology) of the Leibniz Universitat Hannover.
The task now is to adapt the laser to lunar flight, and scientists at LZH and TU Berlin want to develop a flight model of the laser qualified for use in space.
The laser will be supported by artificial intelligence (AI).
A camera will take pictures on the Moon. Researchers on Earth will then analyze these photos using an intelligent image processing system.
The system will help analyze laser-melted lunar dust and provide scientists on Earth with AI-based process and quality control.
Neumann added, “Our regolith construction kit will be tailored to the Moon landing site, so that in the lab, the laser and AI can be aligned with the real lunar mission.”
The big challenge here is that the AI has to be trained in advance for use on the Moon.
“Therefore, the scientists will set up a laboratory at TU Berlin in which they will photograph the regolith under lighting conditions mimicking those of the Moon.
“This will create a corresponding pool of images with which the AI can be trained.
Benedict Grefen from the “Exploration and Propulsion” group of the Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics (RFT) of TU Berlin, added: “In addition, a regolith construction kit has been developed in recent years, which allows to the various possible landing sites to be recreated precisely in terms of properties.
“This is then adapted in the project to the final Moon landing site, so that in the lab, the laser and the AI can be aligned to the real lunar mission.”
The Moonrise project will last three years and is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action to the tune of 4.75 million euros ($4.82 million).
The launch of the mission is scheduled for 2024.
This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.