China To Explore 3D Printing For Moon Base

chang'e 5 2020

Upcoming China lunar probe to investigate use of 3D printing to build manned habitations on lunar surface from moon soil ‘bricks’

China is planning to explore using 3D printing technology to construct habitations on the Moon as part of investigating the feasibility of a long-term crewed lunar base, state-backed newspaper China Daily reported on Monday.

The Chang’e 8 mission planned for later this decade is to send a probe to the lunar surface to conduct experiments.

These are to include carrying out investigations of the environment and mineral composition and to determine whether 3D printing can be deployed on the surface, the paper said.

“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 Weiren, a scientist at the China National Space Administration, told the paper.

chang'e 3 lunar surface 2013
The lunar surface photographed by Chang’e 3 in 2013. Image credit: CASC/China Ministry of Defense

Lunar base

In 2020 China’s Chang’e 5 probe, named after China’s goddess of the moon, brought back China’s first lunar soil samples.

The Chang’e 6, 7 and 8 probes are all intended to prepare the way for a manned mission to the lunar surface by 2030.

Chinese media reported earlier this month that the country wants to start building a lunar base using soil from the moon in five years.

A robot with the task of manufacturing “bricks” from the lunar soil is to be launched during the Chang’e 8 mission around 2028, according to an expert from the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

chang'e lander yutu 2 rover china moon
The Chang’e 4 lander and Yutu 2 rover photographed by one another in 2019. Image credit: CNSA/CLEP

Manned missions

China is competing with the United States in its moon mission plans, with the US planning a series of lunar missions over the next few years.

NASA and Canada’s space agency earlier this month named four astronauts for the Artemis II mission planned for late 2024 that would be the first human flyby of the moon since Apollo 17 in 1972.

A later mission is intended to use the SpaceX Starship vehicle to ferry astronauts to the lunar surface.

But an initial test of Starship last week ended with the vehicle’s destruction after its two stages failed to separate.