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Norman Foster reveals moon base plans

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Foster + Partners has designed a multi-domed moon base for Europe’s equivalent of NASA

Backed by the European Space Agency (ESA), the scheme would be constructed from 3D-printed lunar soil avoiding the high cost of transporting materials from planet earth.

A 1.5 tonne building block was prototyped to demonstrate the construction method as part of  the feasibility study.

ESA’s Scott Hovland said the project showed one possible route to human settlement on the moon. ‘The new possibilities this work opens up can then be considered by international space agencies as part of the current development of a common exploration strategy,’ he said.

Prototype block: Foster + Partners' moon base project for the European Space Agency

Prototype block: Foster + Partners’ moon base project for the European Space Agency

Xavier De Kestelier of Foster + Partners said the studio’s experience of ‘designing for extreme climates on earth and exploiting the environmental benefits of using local, sustainable materials’ helped with the study. ‘Our lunar habitation follows a similar logic,’ he said.

The high-profile studio has already completed a 10,000m² spaceport in New Mexico.

The practice’s moon base design featured a weight-bearing ‘catenary’ dome with a cellular structured wall to shield against micrometeoroids and space radiation.

The design included a pressurized inflatable to shelter astronauts. The hollow closed-cell structure provides a good combination of strength and weight, according to an ESA statement.

The prototype block was fabricated by UK-based Monolite using a d-shaped printer usually used for making sculptures and artificial coral reefs.

‘First, we needed to mix the simulated lunar material with magnesium oxide. This turns it into “paper” we can print with,’ said company 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 metres per hour, while our next-generation design should attain 3.5 metres per hour, completing an entire building in a week.’

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