One of the major challenges of permanent human existence on the moon or Mars is to build habitats and other construction projects on distant surfaces. NASA says the process of building landing floors, habitats and roads on the moon is likely to be very different from the construction sites that are common on Earth. One challenge will be that the digging robot needs to be lightweight enough to be able to dig with less gravity.
Large-scale building systems can be autonomous and equipped to work without the assistance of astronauts. As part of the Artemis program, NASA has developed the concept of building the core surface elements needed for sustainability on the moon, which emphasizes mobility to enable astronauts to explore more and do more scientific work.
NASA is considering using lunar topographic vehicles, habitable mobile platforms or lunar RVs with ground habitats a decade ago. It is also one of five future industries investigating advanced manufacturing processes that it believes will support space exploration and improve life on Earth.
NASA is working with ICON, a construction technology company based in Austin, Texas, to develop space-based building systems for the moon and Mars. ICON has implemented 3D-printed homes and structural communities on Earth and participated in NASA’s 3D-printed Habitat Challenge.
The challenge is designed to showcase construction methods and techniques that can be applied to applications beyond Earth. Another government agency is also interested in technology and its applications on Earth. The Air Force awarded ICON a research contract for innovation in two-use small businesses to expand the structure of 3D printing livable buildings.
Part of the contract will explore commonality between earth and extraterr earth applications. ICON is also investing in this work. Sufficient progress has been made that NASA may give ICON additional funding and explore the possibility of testing on the lunar surface.