06/02/2013 05:53 GMT | Updated 08/04/2013 06:12 BST

European Space Agency Releases Pictures of 3D Printed Moon Base (PHOTOS)


This is what our first true home on the Moon might look like.

The European Space Agency (ESA) and the architects Foster and Partners have released new images of a Moon base made with a 3D printer.

The firm is part of a consortium of businesses set up to explore if 3D printing could hold the key to sustainable structures being constructed on our satellite.

The study is investigating if lunar soil, known as regolith, could be used to build structures. The idea is to combine this with magnesium oxide to create a kind of 'sprayable concrete'.

Using natural resources on the Moon could vastly reduce the cost of building a base there, because the amount of material required to be lifted out of our atmosphere would be cut.

Foster and Partners explain:

"The practice has designed a lunar base to house four people, which can offer protection from meteorites, gamma radiation and high temperature fluctuations.

The base is first unfolded from a tubular module that can be transported by space rocket. An inflatable dome then extends from one end of this cylinder to provide a support structure for construction. Layers of regolith are then built up over the dome by a robot-operated 3D printer to create a protective shell."

They add that the shell is made of a "hollow closed cellular structure" like foam to ensure strength.

A 1.5 tonne mock-up has already been made, and 3D printing tests are already underway.

There is even a planned location - near the southern pole, where there is near perpetual sunlight.

But don't get too exited - as ever, it seems, firm plans to take us back to the Moon are still very much on the distant horizon.