BIG Architects and 3D-printed building company ICON have announced their partnership on Project Olympus, which aims to develop robotic construction on the moon. The architecture firm and SEArch+ (Space Exploration Architecture) were enlisted for the project by ICON after it received a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) government contract boosted with funding from NASA.
Called Project Olympus, it aims to develop a way to create a 3D-printed infrastructure for living on the moon using materials found on its surface.
“Building humanity’s first home on another world will be the most ambitious construction project in human history and will push science, engineering, technology, and architecture to literal new heights,” said Jason Ballard, Co-founder and CEO of ICON. “NASA’s investment in space-age technologies like this can not only help to advance humanity’s future in space, but also to solve very real, vexing problems we face on Earth. We are honored to begin our research and development on ICON’s “Project Olympus” and the “Olympus Construction System.”
NASA has signaled that, through the Artemis program, the Moon will be the first off-Earth site for sustainable surface exploration. Building a sustainable presence on the Moon requires more than rockets. For a permanent lunar presence to exist, robust structures will need to be built on the Moon that provide better thermal, radiation, and micrometeorite protection than metal or inflatable habitats can provide. From landing pads to habitats, these collective efforts are driven by the need to make humanity a spacefaring civilization.
In partnership with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, ICON will test lunar soil simulant with various processing and printing technologies. The tests will help design, develop, and demonstrate prototype elements for a possible future full-scale additive construction system that could print infrastructure on the Moon.
ICON has engaged two award-winning architecture firms as partners for the audacious project: BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group, renowned for their iconic international architecture and SEArch+ (Space Exploration Architecture), a company recognized on a global scale for their innovative ‘human-centered’ designs for space exploration. SEArch+ has over a decade-long association with NASA’s Johnson Space Center Human Habitability Division, Langley Research Center, Ames Research Center and leading aerospace corporations, and BIG has worked on multiple concepts for the Moon and Mars in the past several years.
“To explain the power of architecture, “formgiving” is the Danish word for design, which literally means to give form to that which has not yet been given form. This becomes fundamentally clear when we venture beyond Earth and begin to imagine how we are going to build and live on entirely new worlds,” said Bjarke Ingels, Founder and Creative Director, BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group. “With ICON we are pioneering new frontiers – both materially, technologically and environmentally. The answers to our challenges on Earth very well might be found on the Moon.”
“Ensuring the safety of astronauts is primary to our work at SEArch+. As architects and designers, we strive to create aspirational spaces that enrich and celebrate human life. We are thrilled to support “Project Olympus” and come one step closer towards becoming an interplanetary species. 3D printing with indigenous materials is a sustainable and versatile solution to off-world construction that will prove to be vital to our future here on Earth and in Outer Space,” said SEArch+ Co-founders.