Architect part of a team of engineers to develop plans to construct buildings on the surface of the moon using 3D printing

Foster + Partners has joined a team of engineers to develop plans to construct buildings on the surface of the moon.

The architect is working as part of a consortium set up by the European Space Agency aimed at exploring the possibilities of 3D printing to construct lunar habitations.

It is hoped that use of the 3D printing technology can address the challenge of transporting materials to the moon. The study is also looking at the possibility of using lunar soil, known as regolith, as a building material.

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.

The geometry of the structure was designed by Foster + Partners in collaboration with the consortium partners, which  includes Italian space engineering firm Alta SpA, working with Pisa-based engineering university Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna.

Xavier De Kestelier, Foster + Partners specialist modelling group partner, said: “As a practice, we are used to designing for extreme climates on earth and exploiting the environmental benefits of using local, sustainable materials – our lunar habitation follows a similar logic.

“It has been a fascinating and unique design process, which has been driven by the possibilities inherent in the material. We look forward to working with ESA and our consortium partners on future research projects.”