The world still celebrates the historic landing of the Chinese spacecraft “Chang’e-4” on the reverse side of the moon, which happened on 3 January. Last month China also announced its future plans for the development of the satellite. In their framework is expected to send three missions, which will have to lay the Foundation to begin construction of a lunar base. Colonization of the moon and other planets of the Solar system has always been a theme for inspiration. Technological advances and the discovery of substantial reserves of water closer to the lunar poles made the idea even more attractive. But as far as the same China closer to the actual implementation of this idea?
Speaking only from the point of view of the currently available technologies, China is able to begin construction of lunar base now believes the portal Space.com. But, apparently, not so simple.
The first moon base
The first lunar base is likely to be a deserted station, all work which will be performed by robots. It will look similar to how warehouse robots Amazon, which it uses in large quantities. Creating a fully Autonomous robotic stations will provide the infrastructure that will be vital to those who in the future will fly to the moon with one goal – to live here.
The lunar environment is the vacuum of space, extreme low and high temperature, solar radiation, and other conditions are obviously unsuitable for humans. We really don’t know much about the impact it can have on the human body for a long stay in her environment. However, due to the same action of China, some questions already have answers.
Cotton seeds sent to the moon with the mission “Chang’e-4”, gave the growth. This is the first case in history when the moon was able to grow a plant. And this case opens the way to the possibility of growing food on the Earth satellite in lunar base, providing food needs of the colonists.
If we ignore the issues of the environment, the construction of a lunar base will not be much different from the construction of the first oil rigs in the ocean. You should explore terrain (in our case, to collect and analyze soil samples), to conduct feasibility studies and to deal with the logistics of getting bulky cargo. All you can fly.
China has already taken the first step in the chain – engaged in reconnaissance. Speaking about where to build the base, at the moment the most promising option is the construction of dwellings under the lunar surface. It’s very simple: the construction of underground dwellings and infrastructure will protect them from the harsh surface environmental conditions of the lunar environment.
Without 3D printing anywhere
Among all currently available technologies for construction of a lunar base in the most efficient and promising option is the technology of 3D printing. On Earth, 3D printing has already proved its worth, successfully entrenched in the construction, automotive, aerospace, medical and military sectors, allowing to reduce the cost of production and waste volumes.
Technology every year is becoming more perfect, developed new methods of 3D printing. All this clearly shows that 3D printing will be a revolutionary method in solving the most complex engineering problems.
Additive manufacturing will be actively used to create extraterrestrial colonies. In this there is no doubt. For example, China plans to use 3D printing technology not only inside the lunar station, but also abroad. 3D printing will allow to create not only household items and Essentials (mugs, spoons, forks, plates, furniture and so on), but the parts needed for the repair station.
3D printing in space – not an easy task. It will require the development of new technologies that will allow it to work in low gravity conditions of the moon. It is necessary to develop 3D printers capable of printing objects in the vacuum of space.
Will need new materials
Experiments on Board the International space station proved that some earth materials can change their properties in space. It is, for example, about the optical fiber. In other words, materials that can be effective or, conversely, ineffective on the Ground, can become ineffective or very effective on the moon.
What would be the ultimate material for 3D printing is not chosen by the engineers for use in lunar gravity, it needs to be resistant to the environment in which it will be used. The development of such materials is a critical aspect. Realizing this, scientists are step by step trying to resolve this issue. For example, researchers from Germany are working out how to make it possible to 3D print in space with metal particles. Space Agency NASA also showed its possibilities of 3D printing in space. By the way, Russia in this case, too, is not far behind. In 2017, the company THETA has unveiled a prototype electron beam 3D printer for metal, which, according to its developers can be used including on the moon.
We have already seen how 3D printers able to print entire houses on Earth. Generally speaking, the same approach, in combination with the usage of ready-made parts, most likely, will be used to create a lunar base. Examples of how to look for such bases, we have already seen many times. For example, the same NASA for many years conducts competitions on the theme of technologies of 3D-printing dwellings on other planets.
Life on the moon
We have addressed only the technical issues related to the establishment of a lunar base. Also important is addressing issues related to human life on the moon. You need to find out exactly whether the person you long to be in the space environment and how it will affect human physiology down to the cellular level. Unfortunately, our stock of knowledge in these matters is not enough. It is necessary to conduct numerous additional experiments and research.
We have found that human organs, tissues and cells are very sensitive to gravity, but function of these cells and how they regenerate in space – still a mystery. What will happen to the person if he is sick? Whether in this case, the effective earth medicine? If people want to start living on the moon, then all these fundamental questions need answers.
If we talk about the later prospects, the most important role in supporting long-term lunar missions, and colonization play a three-dimensional bioprinting technology, and robotic surgery. Movement in these directions is already underway. For example, recently the Russian company 3D Bioprinting Solutions has conducted a successful test of the world’s first 3D bio-printer for operation in microgravity.
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