Harvest the moon to fabricate, fuel, and supply deep-space vessels made entirely from material which is mined, grown, and 3D-printed from lunar resources.
Low-gravity conditions make the moon not only an ideal launch point for space-exploration, but enable the transport of materials from the lunar surface to orbiting proto-spacecraft. This proposal circumvents the technical improbabilities of large-scale, horizontal conveyance systems to transport resources collected from various locations on the moon by proposing vertical conveyance systems which tether the proto-spacecraft directly to extraction points on the lunar surface. The system utilizes linear induction (maglev) technology to propel a space elevator within the cavity of a tensegrity structure comprised of cables (power supply) and compression rods (electro-magnets).
Material harvested from the lunar surface is processed and conveyed up to the orbiting proto-spacecraft where it is used as the source-material to 3D-print larger components of the final, deep-space vessel. Hence, the proto-spacecraft is transformed into a mature spacecraft through a process of accretion without the need to launch large payloads from the lunar surface. As the spacecraft nears maturity, modules which contain water, oxygen, and hydrogen fuel processed from the lunar surface, and food grown in lunar greenhouses, are conveyed upwards and docked into the mature spacecraft to supply long-range manned space missions.
The primary source-material used in the spacecraft’s 3D-printed components is lunar regolith which is found in abundance on the moon’s surface. Lunar regolith is melted to produce anhydrous glass: a source-material for 3D-printing which is potentially stronger than alloy steel with a fraction of its mass. These glass fibers are heated and ‘spun’ in the vacuum conditions of space to create the super-strong structures needed to support the immense solar sails which carry the spacecraft into deep space. The 3D-printed process allows for a certain regenerative capacity as damaged components can be re-printed in situ.
Rather than creating a permanent infrastructure on the moon, this proposal envisions a minimally evasive, ecological, and sustainable repurposing of the lunar habitat to seed future space exploration.