The conquest of space is a common goal for many space agencies in the world. For China, the Moon is at the center of its space program.
China plans to develop this theme with three lunar missions programmed for the current decade. The last mission to date, Chang'e 8, intends to bring a new dimension to the lunar conquest. The probe must examine on the Moon the possibility of collecting reusable resources in order to create a lunar base. The idea is to construct buildings with materials collected on site using 3D printing technology.
A robot on the Moon to create “lunar soil bricks
3D printing is, indeed, an increasingly coveted technology for space projects. Airbus has already announced a metal printing project at the International Space Station in collaboration with the European Space Agency. 3D printing technology allows exploration missions to produce or replace necessary components on site, thus avoiding launch costs from Earth.
The Chang'e 8 mission will be equipped with a robot similar to a six-legged insect that is supposed to print bricks from lunar soil. Nicknamed the “super builder”, the robot will assemble these printed bricks like Lego pieces. For Wu Weiren, a scientist from the China National Space Administration (CNSA), this would be the best way to settle permanently on the Moon: “If we want to stay on the Moon for a long time, we should set up stations using the Moon's own materials.
The space race accelerates
Space exploration is always a competition between space agencies, so China is not alone in this field. Indeed, NASA and the Canadian space agency have also announced their project of human flyover of the moon with the Artemis II mission. Four astronauts will make up the crew, including Christina Hammock Koch, the first woman to have orbited the Moon, and Victor Glover, the first African-American to go to the Moon. This mission, scheduled for December 2025, is the first manned lunar landing since Apollo 17 in 1972.
The Orion spacecraft will be used for this mission, having already made a test trip around the Moon last year. The astronauts should stay about a week on the Moon, with the intention of doing spacewalks. The space race is more than ever launched, with China, the United States and other countries wanting to mark their advance in the space conquest.