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TWIST, Episode 2: Printing a Lunar Colony in 3D

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The second episode of the weekly web series TWISTâThis Week in Science and Technology, with my pal Dr. Carin Bondarâis now online. Carin talks coral reefs and genetic circuits, while I wax lyrical about colonizing the Moon. My part starts at 1:17, but you should watch the whole thing.

Thereâs a lot of discussion among space exploration advocates about what we should do next as far as a big goal in space. Go to the Moon, go to Mars, visit an asteroid? I like all these ideas, but I think the best way to go is to head to the Moon. Itâs close by, we know how to get there, and we have some experience dealing with moving around on it.

Some folks argue that weâve been there, done that, and thereâs no need to go back. I think thatâs a bit naïve. For one thing, itâs not like getting to and staying on the Moon is a walk in the park. Also, I think that overestimates the publicâs indifference. Sure, we went to the Moonâ¦40 years ago. The people we most need to excite about space travel are the ones who were born a decade after Gene Cernan took his last lunar step. They donât remember Apollo, except as a section of the history book wedged in to the chapter about Vietnam.

Weâll learn a lot by going to the Moon, if we go there to stay. Building a habitat is one of the key features of this, including learning how to use native materials for our own benefit. Iâd rather we learned that on the Moon than on Mars, where a backup supply ship is at least six months away.

This idea of using automated 3D printers to create construction materials is pretty solid, and very promising. The astronauts who will live on the Moon in a decade or two are the ones who are playing with Lego now. Seems like a natural extension to me.

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