NASA is not content with sending humans back to the Moon, it also wants to give them the opportunity to live there. And the space agency has already hired an Austin-based company to build them.
The US national space agency NASA plans to build homes on the Moon by 2040, and several scientists from the agency told the New York Times that work is already underway. The agency is preparing to return to the Moon and hopes that its astronauts will be able to stay on the Moon for a long time in a house built with a 3D printer.
Houses will be built on the Moon
The Moon is critical to humanity’s next breakthrough. The Moon offers powerful opportunities for humanity to become an interplanetary race. Many space agencies aim to build bases on the Moon. NASA plans to turn the satellite into a settlement by building houses along with bases. In fact, this is already more than a plan. Austin-based 3D printing company ICON will build houses using lunar soil in a project called Project Olympus. “We brought the right people together at the right time for a common goal, so I think we’re going to get there,” said Niki Werkheiser, NASA’s director of technology maturation.
ICON built its first 32-square-meter prototype home in March 2018 in Austin with a proprietary machine called Vulcan. The company is building more than 400 homes in Austin and hurricane-resistant homes for the poor in rural Mexico. The company has been working with NASA since 2020 and received $57 million in funding in 2022 to build construction systems that use lunar and Martian resources as building materials.
Tests will take place next year
The company plans to use dust, rocks and mineral fragments from the Moon’s surface to create the concrete-like material that will form houses and other buildings. But the challenge here is less about the material and more about the physics. ICON’s printer will be tested next February at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center to see how it handles space conditions. Beyond homes, NASA is working with universities and private companies on other household items, from doors to tiles and furniture. There is no word yet on how (or if) they will cope with the atmosphere.
But before all that, NASA needs to successfully send astronauts back to the Moon. If all goes according to plan, the Artemis 2 mission will send astronauts into lunar orbit in 2024. The Artemis 3 mission will land at the Moon’s south pole in 2025 or 2026 with the help of SpaceX’s Starship and return humans to the surface.