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.
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.
It’s a work in progress, and the project has yet to find out if the 3D printed parts will actually be able to hold up to the stresses of lunar base life, according to Live Science.
But if we do find a way to 3D print objects using locally sourced materials, the possibilities are endless. The tech could make living on the Moon a whole lot easier — and maybe a tiny bit less reliant on the Earth.
READ MORE: European Researchers Baked Fake Moon Dust into Money and Screws [Live Science]
More on 3D printing on the moon: Here Are The Finalists For NASA’s Mars Habitat Design Competition