Space habitation could begin with a village on the moon

The ESA plans to send huge 3D printers to space to build a village on the moon.

In 2013, architectural firm Foster + Partners designed a dome-like structure suitable for shelter in space. Now, as technology advances and the allure of space-living increases, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced that the firm’s design could be used to build an astronaut village on the moon as early as 2030.

The announcement was made at the ESA’s International Symposium on Moon 2020-2030 in the Netherlands last month. According to Science Alert, the moon village will be built using 3D printed lunar soil and inhabited for months at a time by teams of astronauts. It will function as a “lunar refuelling station” or pit stop for future missions to mars.

"The ESA space exploration strategy sets the moon as a priority destination for humans on the way to Mars," NASA’s Kathy Laurini was quoted as saying. "The timing is right to get started on the capabilities which allow Europe to meet its exploration objectives and ensure it remains a strong partner as humans begin to explore the Solar System."

By 2020, the ESA plan to send robots to the moon to begin building infrastructure using the moon’s local resources. This is where Foster + Partners comes in. The firm devised a weight-bearing ‘catenary’ dome design with a cellular structured wall to shield against micrometeoroids and space radiation, incorporating a pressurised inflatable to shelter astronauts.

At the time, Xavier De Kestelier of Foster + Partners Specialist Modelling Group said lunar habitation would follow the same principles used to build in extreme environments on Earth.