Such on-demand fabrication would allow astronauts to repair broken parts, manufacture spare ones and maybe even build structures, all out of the dirt scooped from under their boots.
In a new study involving artificial moon dust, engineers have shown that the technology is close to becoming reality.
With 10 pounds of simulated lunar dirt (or regolith) in hand, NASA officials approached researchers at Washington State University and challenged them to melt and resolidify the fake moon rock using 3D laser printing technology, which produces objects layer by layer based on a computer model.
The simulant is an expensive combination of silicon, aluminum, calcium, iron and magnesium oxides. Meant to mimic the properties of the regolith found on the moon, the powdery material had a particle structure resembling that of ceramics.
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