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Texas-based 3D printing company teaming up with NASA to put buildings on the moon

ICON, a company out of Austin, is building a 3D printing robotic arm that will be sent to the moon to do the construction but can be controlled from Earth.

TEXAS, USA — The term "off-world construction" is pretty new to planet Earth. The idea of putting a building on another world has never been part of our reality, until now.

NASA is teaming up with an Austin-based 3D printing company to construct a community on the moon.

The moon is nearly 240,000 miles away. For perspective, in that distance, you could circle our planet nine times and still have 15,000 miles to go. So the task of getting to the moon has been incredible enough. But what about building on it?

“The next phase of the Artemis program, after we’ve successfully landed humans on the surface of the moon, the goal is to establish a sustained presence on the surface of the moon," Corky Clinton with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center said.

Through a $57 million contract with NASA, ICON, a company out of Austin, is working to do just that. ICON wants to put a broad spectrum of infrastructure on the moon, which isn’t the easiest place to build.

“First of all, you need to be able to protect the astronauts from the lunar environment which is really a nasty place to live and work. Vacuumed environment, extreme temperature swings, radiation environment, micro-meteoroids, dust protection," Clinton said. “To produce things like landing pads and roads and blast shields and shelters and habitats.”

Clinton says ICON will now work to build a 3D printing robotic arm that will be sent to the moon to do the construction but can be controlled from Earth.

“These machines, given the power and the feedstock materials from the excavators, can work day and night, day and night, day and night to continue to build the infrastructure without the presence of astronauts," Clinton said.

There’s a sample of some of ICON’s work already at NASA. Last year, the company 3D printed a 1,700-square-foot simulated Martian habitat that’s being used here on earth as a training module for astronauts.

“Astronauts that will actually spend a year in that habitat like they’re on the surface of Mars," Clinton said.

Starting this summer, four astronauts will live and work inside that module for a year as a test run for future missions on Mars.

NASA says a hopeful timeline for getting the robotic 3D printing arm on the moon would be in the next three to four years.

Janelle Bludau on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


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