Even before settling in on the Moon, its economy is already booming. Axios reports that an Austin-based 3D printing firm called ICON just received a $57.2 million investment from NASA for its Project Olympus for developing 3D-printed lunar shelters.
ICON aims to have its Moon huts ready for NASA use by 2026. If the Moon is inhabited by humans in the future, long-lasting and lightweight lunar housing will be vital.
“We feel real weight and responsibility — we’re not just doing this for ourselves,” Ballard told Axios, adding that “we’re giving humanity the capability to build on other worlds.”
“The final deliverable of this contract will be humanity’s first construction on another world,” he added, “and that is going to be a pretty special achievement.”
ICON is most well-known for its work building Earthly structures. Project Olympus was first launched in 2020, and the company also seems to have planned for constructing a 3D-printed Mars colony.
According to Ballard, learning to build from the Moon’s natural regolith ensures the viability of long-term human tenure on the Moon.
“If you tried to plan a lunar settlement or a moon base and you had to bring everything with you, every time you wanted to build a new thing it’s like another $100M,” Ballard told Payload. “But once you’ve got a system that can build almost anything — landing pads, roadways, habitats — and it uses local material, you are probably two or three orders of magnitude cheaper to build a permanent lunar presence than you would be in any other way that we can think of.”