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Moon Space Science

A Moon Base Made From Lunar Dust 115

Posted by samzenpus
from the using-what-you-got dept.
Zothecula writes "The race to build a manned research station on the moon has been slowly picking up steam in recent years, with several developed nations actively studying a variety of construction methods. In just the past few months, the European Space Agency revealed a design involving 3D-printed structures and the Russian Federal Space Agency announced plans for a moon base by 2037. Now international design agency, Architecture Et Cetera (A-ETC), has thrown its hat into the ring with a proposal for SinterHab, a moon base consisting of bubble-like compartments coated in a protective layer of melted lunar dust."
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A Moon Base Made From Lunar Dust

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 18, 2013 @10:43AM (#43202957)

    Why worry about the moonbase construction material when you can't even land on the moon?

    First things first.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday March 18, 2013 @10:57AM (#43203069) Journal

      Why worry about the moonbase construction material when you can't even land on the moon?

      First things first.

      Unless you have a plan for what you are going to do when you land, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to sink a bunch of money into developing the ability to land. Especially since the moon is so hostile, and not at the top of the list in terms of pure scientific interest, you really need a viable plan for your ground game before it becomes remotely worth the hassle.

      This is 'first things first'.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by delt0r (999393)
        And yet this still does not give us a real why? What is the point of sending radiation intolerant, oxygen consuming meat bags on the moon? Its not science. For the same budget we can get much more done with even robotic probes. Its not 3He, for one there almost nothing there (1-50ppb) and we can't even burn DT let alone 3He which is ~60x harder to do. So we can learn how to go to mars? For what? To do what? Again science is best done by machines that handle the environment.

        And no this is *nothing* like g
        • by TangoMargarine (1617195) on Monday March 18, 2013 @01:07PM (#43204525) Journal

          So *when* (not if) some extinction-level (or mass-destruction-and-suffering-level, anyway) event happens to Earth, humans don't go extinct? How's that a reason for ya?

          • by delt0r (999393)
            That is seriously the best you can come up with? We have, in all probability (ie the same probability that the said event won't also take out the moon), thousands of years before then. We don't need to rush with every last penny for a tiny handful of NASA pilots to go to the moon and mars now.
            • I would consider it a pretty damn compelling reason. I'm not saying we steal from education to fund it...maybe just cut military spending by 25% or so. Without a sense of urgency, it never gets addressed. And I for one am not willing to gamble on "oh, it won't happen in my lifetime" until it finally does.

              • by delt0r (999393)
                And how does putting perhaps 1 at most 2 people on mars, or even a dozen people on the moon having anything to do with this goal? Pro tip, Nothing. If you want space for joe average. You don't want NASA to have anything to do with it.
                • I thought I had submitted a reply to this post [slashdot.org] but it looks like it somehow got lost in the pipes. Obviously I am not talking about relocating less than a decent-sized and reproductively self-sustaining population offplanet. Having NASA in charge of it may not be a good idea, I'll give you.

                  Oh, and don't use "pro tip:" in a comment unless you're sure that the person you're flaming is actually making the argument you're attacking him for. Better yet, just don't use "pro tip:" at all.

                  • by delt0r (999393)
                    How about i will put what i want in my posts and if you don't like it you can just read/go somewhere else.
                    • How about you don't post replies snarkily criticizing people for pedantic and inaccurate assumptions and then it won't be a problem?

          • You'd need a much larger infrastructure to ensure that your plan succeeds if you remove Earth from the equation. Let's say your first Earth re-colonization after The Big Event fails. Even if you still have people on the Moon, how do you get them back to Earth? Your ships are gone. How do you survive the years before that? The spare parts won't come anymore. You'll have to have a complete new electronic industry on the Moon. Now remember, the silicon processing facilities we use on Earth are very large, amon
            • by cusco (717999)
              Boy, I'm sure glad that someone told my great-great-grandparents that when they went to homestead in the wilds of northern Michigan they'd never be able to buy a new plow harness if they broke one, since of course no one could make such a thing on their own. Oh, wait . . .

              Not sure why you think it would be the cast of Jersey Shore that would choose to go live on an extra-planetary colony, and that they'd leave all the accumulated knowledge of humanity back on Earth.
              • Boy, I'm sure glad that someone told my great-great-grandparents that when they went to homestead in the wilds of northern Michigan they'd never be able to buy a new plow harness if they broke one, since of course no one could make such a thing on their own. Oh, wait . . .

                Talk about a horrible analogy.

                Not sure why you think it would be the cast of Jersey Shore that would choose to go live on an extra-planetary colony, and that they'd leave all the accumulated knowledge of humanity back on Earth.

                Knowledge is useless if you don't have a self-sufficient closed technological ecosystem to jump-start the production of whatever you discover that you need. A lunar base with six people on it won't cut it. A lunar base with a few hundred people *might* cut it, if you equip them with manufacturing technologies we don't happen to have yet, and with vast computers to supply them with expert knowledge that you can't expect a small group of people to have. And even if you send your

            • It will of course be very complicated and expensive, sure. But it's all the more important to get there if the first colony fails. We learn from our mistakes and do it right the second time. Why do you think it took until Apollo 11 to get to the moon? (Okay, so maybe that's not the best example.)

          • I don't think so - even after an extinction-level event on the Earth, it would still be an easier place for a habitation than the Moon. For a start, the Earth would still have an atmosphere, and even if it was toxic or otherwise not breathable it still makes the task of maintaining a habitat much easer (ie only need to seal it, rather than build a pressure container). Similar story for water (maybe need to go to great lengths to decontaminate water from a post-apocolyptic Earth, but that is still fairly s
          • So the moon base will be able to save 7 billion humans?
      • by dywolf (2673597) on Monday March 18, 2013 @12:26PM (#43204043)

        The desert was hostile too.
        So was the arctic.
        And the ocean.
        And beneath it.
        And atmosphere above 15k feet.
        Hostility to human life is simply an engineering problem, and each of these, including space, has been solved.

        Moon base construction 101:
        First off, large facilities on the surface are out the window, unless absolutely needed. Good for TV, bad for actual use.

        Everything that can be gets built/housed under the surface. Companies and engineers with experience building pressure tight subsurface/subsea tunnels could make a killing bringing that experience to the moon. Again, it's a solved engineering problem. This solves the multiple problems of pressure vessel, habitat, dominant construction material, meteorite impact, and so on.

        Main objective of the base? If it's not science, then it must be industry. Which makes perfect sense actually. There are vast resources in the solar system to be exploited, but returning them to Earth to be refined is problematic. We can't really get them down to the surface easily...and if they're destined to go back into space, thats rather hard to do on a large scale too. And refining in orbit is problematic because of multiple factors: some processes require gravity, orbital stations need to be protected from debris, large enough to do meaningful refinement, yet small enough to be launched into orbit.... But the moon simplifies a lot of these. You dont need to build the large space station or launch it (re, first apragraph stuff). Still has gravity, which keeps many existing refining processes practical (ie, no need develope new special process that may not yeild results that conform to known engineering..such as steel alloy design/use). Yet not nearly as big of a gravity well, so getting on and off the surface is much easier.

        Do the refining there, and then send the finished material back to Earth (if that's its destination). Much more useful to send 6 tons (let's say) of finished steel (again, let's say) back to earth, than 6 tons of unprocessed iron ore that would only yeild say 2-3 tons of finished steel. Or if its destined to be used in space, good news, cause it's already there. Nearly. Certainly far easier than climbing back out of earth's gravity well. Long duration mission to Mars, sending more than a handful of folks on a scientific journey? Need a fairly large, comfortable, transport for them, more than a traditional capsule? Build it on the moon!

        Plus doing it for the first time on the moon, getting the experience, learning the engineering lessons that ALWAYS result from these sorts of endeavors, relatively safe and near to home, instead of doing it for the first time a billion miles and 3 years away.

        • by Poeli (573204)

          The desert was hostile too.
          So was the arctic.
          And the ocean.
          And beneath it.
          And atmosphere above 15k feet.

          They are all still very hostile to humans. None of those places support permanent human life. We can survice there, but only for a little while. You always need a vast influx of energy/materials from the outside. And that is very expensive on the moon.

          • by dywolf (2673597)

            Leaving aside that there are much permanant human life in the desert, arctic, and mountain monestaries...humans also have a vast capability to bring supplies with them. Subs stay submerged for as many as 9 months at a time. 500 people, tiny metal tube, enough food for 9 months.

            You're only helping make my point: these are solved engineering problems. and while i made no mention of cost, like it or not, the cost of not doing it on the moon (such as say, in orbit, or on earth's surface) is far greater.

            • Subs stay submerged for as many as 9 months at a time.

              Since when? In normal deployment? I thought that there are 3-month cycles for SSBNs. The people would go crazy if you had them stay for nine months at a time.

            • by Palamos (1379347)
              The only reason that the engineering problems required to keep 500 people under water for 9 months were solved is that it was necessary for the purposes of warfare. Find a cast iron warfare benefit of a base on the moon then you have your source of funds. Cynical but true.
    • The USA landed on the moon 44 years ago, we can do it again today. Being prepared is a good thing. It won't be many decades before there is an American colony on the moon.
      • by Synerg1y (2169962)

        In layman's, why would anybody want to live on the moon? what possible advantage is there?

        • The moon offers the ultimate high ground. All it would take for the US to go back to the moon will be China or any other country trying to do the same. In that case the project money can be siphoned out of the defense budget. Building a base would require multiple trips to deliver the equipment and supplies needed. Temporary habs can be put up while a more permanent base can be built underground.

    • . . . build the moonbase first . . . and they will come . . .

    • by hattig (47930)

      I would imagine that the human trip to the moon would be *after* all the robotic colony printers have done their work in building the external structures.

      If the structures that are built are robust (especially in regard to flaking away when rubbed/hit/etc) enough, then even furniture could be printed using this mechanism.

      And these robots can keep on building stuff, as long as they are powered. As soon as the first module is built, it can build another module, and structures between modules. All we need to d

    • The moon. For several years, she has fascinated many. But
      will man ever walk on her fertile surface?
      Democratic hopeful Adlai Stevenson says so.
      I have no objection to man walking on the moon.
      By 1964, experts say man will have established twelve
      colonies on the moon, ideal for family vacations.
      Once there, you'll weigh only a small percentage of what
      you weigh on Earth.
      Slow down, tubby! You're not on the moon yet!
      The moon belongs to America, and anxiously awaits the
      arrival of our astro-men. Will you be among them

  • Pay attention! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 18, 2013 @10:51AM (#43203017)

    Sintered != melted.

    • Mod parent up. Sintering is closer to baking. But solar heat is cheap and plentiful on the moon, with periodic availability. Use it to make lego bricks and automate the process of lego assembly. No need for rebar, as moonquakes are not severe. After the structure is up, all the bricks are compressed and strong. Spray the interior to seal pores. Add air.
      • Mod parent up. Sintering is closer to baking. But solar heat is cheap and plentiful on the moon, with periodic availability. Use it to make lego bricks and automate the process of lego assembly. No need for rebar, as moonquakes are not severe. After the structure is up, all the bricks are compressed and strong. Spray the interior to seal pores. Add air.

        The lego moonbase set was my favorite as a kid.

        • The lego moonbase set was my favorite as a kid.

          Wait, who am I kidding? It's still my favorite!

          • by dkf (304284)

            The lego moonbase set was my favorite as a kid.

            Wait, who am I kidding? It's still my favorite!

            Lego: because none of us really wanted to grow up. (I preferred building factories though, with conveyors, sorters, hoppers, etc. Lots of repurposed bricks, and a thing of wonder when it worked, sorting bricks by size automatically...)

      • by delt0r (999393)
        well you may need some sort of rebar. You are probably going to have some cantilevered roofs or something. But it need not be rebar. Fiber reinforced. Lots of silica on the moon.
        • Re:Pay attention! (Score:4, Interesting)

          by garyebickford (222422) <gar37bic@NospaM.gmail.com> on Monday March 18, 2013 @12:18PM (#43203961)

          The classic cathedrals of Europe were all built using the compressive strength of stone, without any significant tensile elements. So it is possible to build domes and vaults of essentially arbitrary size without rebar. And the moon does not have significant issues with the ground shifting under the structures. Having said that, I won't argue that's the right way to do things! :D But it certainly might be for the early structures. I don't recall who, but some university is already experimenting with a '3D printer' that builds room-sized structures out of something similar to moon dust.

          My own group, Space Finance Group, is considering putting together funding for some experiments related to this.

        • by hattig (47930)

          For a one or two story arched roof that is printed (sintered) in place as one solid construction? In 1/6th the Earth's gravity? I'm sure the lack of rebar will not be a problem.

          Now when they're printing domes to cover entire craters, then they might need a means to strengthen the structure. And much as I would like that to happen within twenty years, I suspect it will be more like two hundred years before this happens.

          • by delt0r (999393)
            good point. Totally forgot about the gravity thing. In fact you could probably do some insane architecte on the moon.
        • by khallow (566160)
          Gravity is one sixth of what it is on Earth. And these are basically huts that probably would hold up on Earth. Plus, as a loopy heretic, you didn't pay proper deference to legos on the Moon.
  • by Thud457 (234763) on Monday March 18, 2013 @10:53AM (#43203027) Homepage Journal
    Only if John McAfee pays for it with bitcoins mined with an Beowulf cluster of Arduinos.
    • by wbr1 (2538558)
      Beowulf cluster is dated. The proper term is cloud based.
    • A Beowulf cluster of Arduinos emulated in Minecraft running on a Raspberry Pi.

      Which I won't believe unless it's announced at SXSW.

    • Top marks sir, but you forgot that the first inhabitants will be Julian Assange and Kim Dotcom, on the run from the law. They will operate a pirate bay server up there, away from worldly copyright and patent trolls. Like Sealand, it will be immune to censorship.
      • by wbr1 (2538558)
        Will it be funded by the EFF or the Pirate Party? And will it be powered by thorium reactors and Higgs Bosons?
  • by Covalent (1001277) on Monday March 18, 2013 @11:01AM (#43203111)
    ...for a moon base is to use native materials. The cost of launching all of the base's construction materials to the moon would render the project prohibitively expensive. The notion of digging into the moon and building sub-surface bases runs into a similar problem: digging equipment is big and heavy. To my mind, this is one of only two economically feasible ways to build a lunar base (the other being to use existing lava tubes or caves).

    Now, that's not to say this method would be cheap, but it would certainly be cheaper than building a base from materials brought entirely from Earth.
    • What do you mean, "it's heavy?" You just want the job to go fast.

      NASA should just be like this guy:

      http://boingboing.net/2012/02/14/man-digs-out-basement-with-rc.html [boingboing.net]

    • by dywolf (2673597)

      keep in mind, digging equipment is big and heavy on earth because it has to be; it has to support its weight and the weight of material. but on the moon, that weight is much less. an earth mover that could support a 40ton load on earth could support ~240tons on the moon.

      And a 15ft tunnel borer could fit in the shuttle bay. For simplicity though, probably just put it on a heavy lifter and inside an aero shell. Once boosted to orbit, fit it with robotic guidance and rocket package to get it to the moon. Once

    • by Sigg3.net (886486)

      Yes, but how many of them are willing to leave the casinos and risk their life and native materials in space?

      It would be more productive to use materials from the moon.

  • by wbr1 (2538558) on Monday March 18, 2013 @11:01AM (#43203117)
    It is plentiful, you just have to engineer the printers to use the material, which may be difficult as there is not much of the real stuff to test with.
    The last thing you want is a popup saying "HP LunarJet 1050P has detected a nonstandard or refilled cartridge. Printing suspended."
    • IIRC one of the first things NASA did with moon dust was 'knock it off',

      It's just minerals. Micro structure is no-doubt different, but people have been thinking about using it sense the 60s. Granting then they were planning on making 'crete out of it.

      • by wbr1 (2538558)
        Lunar regolith is just minerals, but the structure is different. Dust and grains on earth tend to be rounded and smooth due to erosion. Not so on the moon, it is largely sharp and jagged. It holds footprints without slumping as a result [Mythbusters 1].
        I am sure there are artificial substances that can be tested, but there's nothing like the real thing baby!
        More Info [wikipedia.org]
        • Re:Not a bad idea (Score:4, Interesting)

          by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday March 18, 2013 @11:24AM (#43203365) Journal

          Even better, it apparently manages some wonderful static cling in the nonconductive lunar vacuum. Razor sharp, unweathered dust, peppered with glassy melt products from micrometeorite impacts, that static-clings like mad to anything it gets on. Probably eats any machinery whose lubricants it contaminates for breakfast, and I wouldn't be too optimistic about breathing the stuff that will end up getting tracked into the habitubes. Silicosis is a bitch of a way to die.

          • I believe this is one reason why the new suits are entered through the back and directly attach and detach from the ship. When the Apollo astronauts went to the moon, they brought their suit in with them and would get moon dust all over them. Now do this with a long duration stay, or on Mars where we know even less about the soil, and we have a real problem. The Z1 Suit solves a lot of cross contamination issues. Granted, this solves almost no problems in the arena of making a base out of local materials.
    • by wbr1 (2538558)
      Hmm, a joke about HP printers gets modded flamebait. I didn't know HP could afford /. shills.
      • Hmm, a joke about HP printers gets modded flamebait. I didn't know HP could afford /. shills.

        The problem was that you made a joke that implied that an HP printer would last long enough to empty its starter cartridge...

        Back in the heroic age, toner was cheap and the printer was built such that anything short of small arms fire wouldn't perturb it(though the firmware on the jetdirects was always total shit, even then).

        During the silver age, the printers were still pretty decent; but they bled you dry on the ink.

        Now, the printers are so ghastly that you'll be lucky to have yours live long enough to ac

  • Life imitating the anime Space Brothers. Awesome
  • They should totally fund this, just for the name " Sinterator ".
  • Moon-brick machine (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Monday March 18, 2013 @11:19AM (#43203305) Homepage Journal

    A while back one of the universities (I want to say in the Southwest US, AZ maybe) had a project to build a machine to make bricks out of moon dust; their process also liberated oxygen and hydrogen from the dust, which could be bottled for human use. As I understood it they had a fully-working prototype.

    Anybody know what happened to this?

  • Cause according to /., 3D printing is the solution for everything these days.

  • by TrentTheThief (118302) on Monday March 18, 2013 @11:31AM (#43203455)

    Holy crap. There have been dozens of moon/asteroid/airless-planet habitat ideas published since the 40's. While not all of them were well reasoned and possible, a huge number of them were. All that was lacking when the stories were written was a way to get there and the material technology to build the damned things. Most of those issues were resolved decades back.

    Don't hail the sintered dome idea a new, unless you want to be in the same category as people raving about "new and improved" dish detergent. The idea's already been written about. But then, so have most of the habitat ideas.

  • by angel'o'sphere (80593) on Monday March 18, 2013 @12:14PM (#43203933) Homepage Journal

    I once watched a video from an "artist" who has built a kind of 3D plotter using a fresnel lense to melt sand. When I saw that I immediately thought: that is how you built on the moon.

    Perhaps someone knows that video and can link it?

  • Lunar dust is a recipe for Silicosis. It looks like broken shards of glass under a microscope and that's because there's no weathering, nothing to smooth the edges, and breathing in this stuff for any length of time will make short work of your lungs. If they're gonna build it with melted lunar dust, it would have to be bloody well melted and that's including the floor. If bits and pieces chip off as you're walking or bringing in machinery from the outside, it's still no good.

    The moon ain't Tatooine. You can't just slap together some domes, filter the air and make it habitable. If the astronauts are still confined to suites, that would get old pretty quick.

    The astronauts will still have to wear filtering masks even if they manage to maintain a normal atmosphere inside. Living/sleeping quarters will effectively have to be clean rooms. Can their "bio-regenerative life support system" take care of the airborne stray particles of lunar dust? If HEPA type filtering is involved, they'll become useless pretty quick. Talk about swimming up a waterfall.

    • It should be possible to remove the dust using static electricity. Back in the vinyl LP days, there were a couple of systems that used static electricty to make dust "jump" off an LP. Considering the system's cost and that it was a consumer product, there's probably "professional" version that does the job quite well.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      If you can build a dome, just hang an airtight inner layer from the dome like a tent. If you don't need any structural strength except to avoid tears and no environmental exposure you should be able to bring something far, far lighter than you otherwise would. Yes, they would need some fancy kind of airlock to make sure it doesn't contaminate the insides but I imagine it would in practice be the opening of the space suit, you step into the space suit and is on the "outside", you back up to the same opening,

      • by eksith (2776419)

        They would still need to implement those "air shower" type apparatus in clean rooms to dust away the spacesuites as much as possible before getting out of them. Still there would be some exposure. The the seals around the airlocks would still be roughed up by some of these particulates which will eventually require frequent maintenance and maybe even replacement.

        I like TrentTheThief's static cleaner suggestion as that will have the fewest problems from blockage.

        We had better work out all these issues on the

    • Silicosis...breathing in...will make short work of your lungs...pieces chip off as you're walking or bringing in machinery from the outside, it's still no good.

      This is a simple construction problem. I grew up in the residential construction biz and worked on commercial/industrial projects (including a NIST expansion at their Boulder facility...really!)

      You can cover the entire inner structure with a plastic sheeting. Just like the roof of a greenhouse only inside....or the bed of your flower garden to keep o

    • by Sigg3.net (886486)

      So you're suggesting that we only send the avatars and calculate in the lag?

  • Moon dust is toxic. Look what happened to Cave Johnson.
  • I know all about how the Apollo [wikipedia.org] program went.. The moondust will just walk off, then kill everyone. Screw that.
  • by AndyKron (937105) on Monday March 18, 2013 @01:24PM (#43204723)
    Old story, Solar Sinter video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tsk-24UYFs0 [youtube.com]
  • I think they are proposing using the lunar dust as a cement filler, to make concrete and such. Therefore, they just need some mixers and water. They will probably create bunkers underground from surface mines. On another note and without getting too technical, we should just let the Decepticons and KKK to handle this mission.
  • OK, while this may be a cool idea, assuming you could get there... Why build a complete structure of limited size when there are numerous known lava tubes. You just need to seal a large one off and you could have as large a living space as you need.

1: No code table for op: ++post

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