Building on the moon

NASA awards Texas company $57 million for lunar construction system.

NASA has awarded the Texas-based company ICON $57.2 million for its Project Olympus, which is working to develop technology that will allow humanity to build outposts on the moon and Mars using locally available dirt and rock.

ICON is a pioneer in the use of advanced construction technologies here on Earth. For example, the company built the first-ever fully permitted 3D-printed home in the United States in 2018 and has since delivered entire communities of such houses in the U.S. and in Mexico. 

The company launched Project Olympus in 2020, reasoning that its tech could help build critical infrastructure like landing pads, roads and habitats on the moon and Mars. ICON has already produced a prototype of sorts — a simulated 3D-printed Red Planet habitat called Mars Dune Alpha(opens in new tab), which NASA will use to train astronauts for long-duration missions.

The newly announced NASA contract, granted via the agency's Small Business Innovation Research program, will help the company mature its tech and procedures. ICON plans to use the money to learn how lunar soil, or regolith, behaves in lunar gravity using simulated samples and real ones brought back by the Apollo missions, company representatives said. 

The company will also test its hardware and software on a space mission that simulates lunar gravity. And there will be an even more ambitious trial, if all goes according to plan.

Source: www.space.com


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