December 1, 2022
Mankind may not physically be back on the Moon just yet, but the Moon Economy is already booming. Case in point: Axios reports that an Austin-based three-dimensional printing firm called Icon just landed a $57.2 million cash infusion from NASA for its Project Olympus, an endeavor to create 3D-printed lunar shelters.
Icon plans to have its Moon huts ready for NASA use by 2026, assuming that the Artemis mission schedule remains intact. If the Moon is, indeed, to become a human outpost, durable and lightweight lunar housing will be essential — a reality that Icon CEO Jason Ballard doesn’t seem to be taking lightly.
“We feel real weight and responsibility — we’re not just doing this for ourselves,” Ballard said, according to a report by Futurism, adding that “we’re giving humanity the capability to build on other worlds.”
He added, “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.”
While Icon is best-known for its work building Earthly structures, it’s been hoping to build in space for some time now. Project Olympus was first launched in 2020, and the company also appears to have its eye on one day constructing a 3D-printed Mars colony.
Rather than bring a bunch of Earthly junk to the Moon’s relatively pristine surface, Icon’s goal is to build the lunar dwellings out of actual lunar materials — Moon dust, broken rocks, and the like, says Futurism.
According to Ballard, learning to build from the Moon’s natural regolith ensures the viability of long-term human tenure on the Moon. (After all, it would inconvenient if Moon miners had to receive a payload from Earth every time they needed to build a new road.)
“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.”
Research contact: @futurism