China’s plans for 3D printing moon structures

China has been looking into how humans could live on the moon for a while now.

China’s plans for 3D printing moon structures
Researchers work next to Chang'e-5 lunar return capsule carrying moon samples. China Daily via REUTERS.

The backstory: China has been looking into how humans could live on the moon for a while now. The country's first moon landing was in 2013, but its space agency has made a lot of progress since then. In 2020, the uncrewed Chinese lunar mission Chang'e 5 brought back China's first lunar soil sample. And between now and 2030, China plans to send Chang'e 6, 7 and 8, which will all go to the moon's south pole. The third mission plans to look for resources that support long-term living on the moon. China is also aiming to land an astronaut on the moon by 2030.

The development: Well, if we're going to put people on the moon, they will need somewhere to stay. On Monday, China Daily reported that the country is looking into using 3D printing tech to construct buildings on the moon. The Chang'e 8 lunar mission will investigate the environment and mineral composition and determine if tech like 3D printing can be sent to the moon's surface. The idea would also be to use lunar soil as the raw building material.

Key comments:

"Lunar soil will be our raw material and it will be printed into construction units," said Wu Weiren, a China National Space Administration scientist.

"Professors at several domestic universities, such as Tongji University in Shanghai and Xi'an Jiaotong University in Shaanxi province, have already begun studying the possible applications of 3D printing technology on the moon."

"It might take us 20 to 30 years or longer to eventually settle down on the moon, but we must start working together now," said Yu Dengyun, from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, at a conference, as quoted by SCMP.

"Eventually, building habitation beyond the Earth is essential not only for all humanity's quest for space exploration, but also for China's strategic needs as a space power," said Ding Lieyun, a specialist in intelligent construction and chief scientist of the National Centre of Technology Innovation for Digital Construction at Huazhong University to China Science Daily during the Extraterrestrial Construction Conference.