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

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Feb 17, 2013, 8:00 AM EST

The second episode of the weekly web series TWIST—This Week in Science and Technology, with my pal Dr. Carin Bondar—is 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.

There’s 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. It’s close by, we know how to get there, and we have some experience dealing with moving around on it.

Some folks argue that we’ve been there, done that, and there’s no need to go back. I think that’s a bit naïve. For one thing, it’s not like getting to and staying on the Moon is a walk in the park. Also, I think that overestimates the public’s indifference. Sure, we went to the Moon…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 don’t remember Apollo, except as a section of the history book wedged in to the chapter about Vietnam.

We’ll 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. I’d 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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