Perhaps you have been following the news of China’s recent landing on the dark side of the moon. The complex Chang’e4 setup has a rover and uses relay satellites to send the information back to Earth. This is just part of a series of missions, however, with subsequent Chang’e missions looking to do things such as bring moon rocks back to Earth with the overall goal of establishing a base on the moon. Perhaps most exciting to us is that the Chang’e8 is scheduled to have a 3D printer on board to look at 3D printing structures for a moon base.
We’ve talked a bunch about 3D printing in space in the past, but the moon is another interesting challenge. Rather than being a zero gravity situation this is a low gravity situation. You also don’t want to be shipping a bunch of filament, so learning how to do it with lunar materials is basically a must.
Of course the Chinese aren’t the only ones working on this, the European Space Agency is also looking into 3D printing with lunar materials. Words like “space race” come to mind, but is that really a bad thing? During that time in the 60’s tremendous technology advances were made because of perceived competition. Assuming no negative geopolitics and conflict and just some healthy pride and financial motivations, an increase in spending, focus and public appetite for space exploration could be a good thing.