China will explore using 3D printing technology to construct buildings on the moon, state media China Daily reported on Monday.
The report comes as Beijing solidifies plans for long-term lunar habitation, including using soil from the moon to start building a lunar base.
“Lunar soil will be our raw material and it will be printed into construction units,” Wu Weiren, a scientist at the China National Space Administration, was quoted as saying in the report.
“Professors at several domestic universities, such as Tongji University in Shanghai and Xi’an Jiaotong University in Shaanxi province, have already begun studying the possible applications of 3D printing technology on the moon,” he added.
China’s 2020 lunar mission Chang’e 5, named after the mythical Chinese goddess of the moon, brought back the country’s first soil samples from the moon.
Between now and 2030, China will also launch the Chang’e 6, 7 and 8 missions, all of which will be tasked with exploring the lunar South Pole.
‘Lunar soil bricks’
The Chang’e 8 probe will conduct on-site investigations of the environment and mineral composition, and also determine whether technologies such as 3D printing can be deployed on the lunar surface, China Daily reported, quoting.
“If we wish to stay on the moon for a long time, we need to set up stations by using the moon’s own materials,” Wu said.
The probe will also be tasked to look for reusable resources on the moon for long-term human habitation.
A robot tasked with making “lunar soil bricks” will be launched during the Chang’e 8 mission around 2028, according to an expert from the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
The Chang’e 6 “robotic mission”, set for launch in 2025, will also extract soil and rock samples from the Moon, the China Daily report added.
“If Chang’e 6 succeeds, it will be the first time we get samples from the moon’s far side,” Wu said.
The race to set foot on the moon has intensified in recent years, particularly between China and the United States.
China, which made its first lunar landing in 2013, plans to land an astronaut on the moon by 2030.
Meanwhile, this month, NASA and Canada’s space agency named four astronauts for the Artemis II mission planned for late 2024, in what would be the first human fly-by of the moon in decades.
- Reuters, with additional inputs from Vishakha Saxena
NOTE: The headline on this report was amended on April 24, 2023.