China Plans To Build A Moon Base Using 3D Printed Bricks From Lunar Soil

hero red star moon base china
Chinese scientists discuss the best method for building a moon base at the first-ever Extraterrestrial Construction Conference. Topics ranged from how to build basic infrastructure on the surface of the moon, to ways of simulating the lunar environment here on Earth.

The conference at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan hosted more than 100 university researchers. China is expecting to begin working on a moon base within the next five years, according to state-run news outlet CGTN.

"Extraterrestrial construction is still at a very early stage. The purpose of this conference is to promote dialogue, gather ideas, and form a consensus as the community moves forward," explained Ding Lieyun, a specialist in intelligent construction and chief scientist of the National Centre of Technology Innovation for Digital Construction at the University.

lunar pot vessel moon base ding
"Lunar pot vessel" moon base scheme proposed by Ding Lieyun and his team. Photo: Handout

Ding was part of a team that constructed an egg-shaped habitat prototype made of 3D-printed bricks constructed from lunar soil. Construction was handled by a robot called Chinese Super Mason, which laid bricks on top of each other. Ding compared the process to building with Lego bricks and that it was far less risky and efficient than printing the entire structure.

"Eventually, building habitation beyond Earth is essential not only for all humanity's quest for space exploration, but also for China's strategic needs as a space power," Ding remarked.

The conference comes on the heels of NASA providing a tour to news outlets of its Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog (CHAPEA) habitat at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The facility is a unique 3D-printed habitat designed to serve as an analog for one-year missions to the surface of Mars. The four crew members and two backup crew members who will partake in the first one-year mission were chosen earlier this week.

icon nasa chapea
3D-printing example from NASA's CHAPEA facility

Ding pointed out that there are multiple challenges to building a moon base, which includes a lack of water, low gravity, frequent moon quakes, and strong cosmic radiation.

Yu Dengyun, from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, warned that scientists may have underestimated the extreme daytime and nighttime temperatures. "Our latest data showed the highest temperature on the moon is about 120 degrees (248 Fahrenheit) and the lowest is around minus 200 degrees. Such a difference is larger than we had expected and adds to the difficulty of in-situ construction."

"It might take us 20 to 30 years or longer to eventually settle down on the moon, but we must start working together now," Yu proclaimed.

Top Image: Proposed Red Star moon base. Credit: Handout