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NASA Offers $57.2 Million Contract To ICON To 3D Print Huts On Moon
Humans might not be physically present on the lunar surface currently, but that hasn’t stopped Moon’s economy from booming. According to a report from Axios, Austin-based 3D printing firm ICON has won a $57.2 million contract from NASA for its Project Olympus. The project involves ICON to 3D print shelters on Moon’s surface.
The report suggests that ICON will be aiming to build its Moon shelters for NASA by 2026, provided the Artemis missions are on track. If the Moon becomes a new outpost for humans, lightweight and durable housing will be necessary.
Building Space Shelters For Astronauts
"We feel real weight and responsibility — we're not just doing this for ourselves," CEO Jason Ballard told Axios. "We're giving humanity the capability to build on other worlds."
"The final deliverable of this contract will be humanity's first construction on another world," he added, "and that is going to be a pretty special achievement."
ICON has a reputation for building structures on Earth, and it has been aiming to build structures in space for quite some time. Project Olympus was announced in 2020, and the company also has plans to construct a 3D-printed colony for Mars.
Using Moon’s Regolith To Build
What’s interesting is that ICON aims to build these shelters using lunar materials such as the Moon’s dust and broken rocks instead of carrying building materials from Earth. Ballard explained that building from Moon’s regolith will be viable for long-term human stay.
"If you tried to plan a lunar settlement or a moon base and you had to bring everything with you, every time you wanted to build a new thing it's like another $100M," Ballard told Payload.
"But once you've got a system that can build almost anything — landing pads, roadways, habitats — and it uses local material, you are probably two or three orders of magnitude cheaper to build a permanent lunar presence than you would be in any other way that we can think of."
NASA Launching Lunar Flashlight Satellite
NASA is launching its Lunar Flashlight satellite aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. The satellite will use its lasers to look for water ice on the dark side of the Moon’s South Pole and explore other places that don’t get sunlight for billions of years.
During its three-month mission, the small-sized satellite will make use of a reflectometer that comprises four lasers emitting near-infrared light in wavelengths that can be absorbed by water ice, as per NASA.