Home Applications & Case Studies ESA uses 3D printing with meteorite dust for lunar construction projects

ESA uses 3D printing with meteorite dust for lunar construction projects

The European Space Agency (ESA) has developed a method to test potential building materials for lunar structures. ESA scientists have produced 3D-printed building blocks that resemble LEGO bricks in shape. The special thing about these bricks is that they are made of ground meteorite dust.

For their experiments, the researchers used a 4.5 billion-year-old meteorite that was discovered in northwest Africa in 2000. The rock was processed into fine dust and mixed with a small amount of polylactide and a regolith simulant. This combination was used to create the so-called ESA Space Bricks using 3D printing.

Aidan Cowley, ESA scientist, explains the motivation behind the project: “We need to find out how and what we can build with on the moon, as we can’t take any materials with us.” The LEGO-like shape of the bricks allows the scientists to test different building techniques on a small scale.

The use of meteorite dust serves as a substitute for lunar regolith, as real moon rock on Earth is only available in very limited quantities from the Apollo missions. The meteorite used belongs to the L3-6 class and contains various elements such as metal grains, inclusions and chondrules.

ESA plans to use the results of this research for future lunar missions as part of the Artemis program. The aim is to construct launch pads and accommodation for astronauts directly from locally available materials.

To promote public interest in space exploration, 15 of these unique ESA Space Bricks will be on display in selected LEGO Stores worldwide and at LEGO House in Billund, Denmark, from June 24 to September 20, 2024. This campaign aims to inspire young people in particular to engage with space technologies and develop their own ideas for lunar structures.

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