ESA Made LEGO Space Bricks From Meteorite Dust Intending To Build A Moon Base

21st Jun 2024
ESA Made LEGO Space Bricks From Meteorite Dust Intending To Build A Moon Base

Scientists at the European Space Agency (ESA) have found a creative solution for building launch pads and shelters on the Moon. They have designed 3D LEGO space bricks using meteorite dust. These bricks could potentially be used to build a base on the Moon in lunar missions like Artemis.

Earth viewed from the Moon by the Apollo 11 spacecraft
Earth is viewed from the Moon by the Apollo 11 spacecraft across a sea of lunar soil. Credit: NASA

LEGO Space Bricks Made Of Space Dust

“ESA Space Bricks” were 3D printed from a feedstock made from a 4.5-million-year-old meteorite, polylactide and regolith simulant as a test to see if they could be used as a lunar building brick.

“No one has ever built a structure on the moon, so we have to work out not only how we build them but what we build them out of, as we can’t take any materials with us,” said Aidan Cowley, ESA’s science officer, in a statement released by Lego on Tuesday, 18th June.

Lunar Regolith 70050 sample
Lunar Regolith 70050 sample, collected from the Moon by the Apollo 17 mission, on display in the National Museum of Natural History. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

When astronauts land on the Moon as part of the Artemis program, they will need to build launch pads and shelters. It is not possible to transport materials from Earth, so scientists are exploring how to build construction using Moon materials. The lunar surface is covered with regolith – specific dust, soil and rock. However, there is not much lunar regolith on our planet, only a few samples collected by the Apollo mission. In order to make a prototype of the brick, the ESA team (partner of NASA in the Artemis program) used a meteorite found 24 years ago in Northwest Africa. It is a brecciated stone that has many different elements incorporated within it: large metal grains, inclusions, chondrules, and other meteorite elements.

A specimen of the NWA 869 chondrite (type L4–6)
A specimen of the NWA 869 chondrite (type L4–6) shows chondrules and metal flakes. A similar meteorite was used to create ESA Space Bricks. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The scientists grounded a 4.5-billion-year-old meteorite into dust and mixed it with polylactide (a biodegradable polymer) and regolith simulant. The mixture is considered to be the closest possible to the lunar regolith and was used to 3D print bricks similar to LEGO bricks.

Why LEGO-style Bricks?

Due to their unique shape, the elements can clutch, making the construction process simpler.

“My team and I love creative construction and had the idea to explore whether space dust could be formed into a brick similar to a LEGO brick so we could test different building techniques. The result is amazing, and while the bricks may look a little rougher than usual, importantly the clutch power still works, enabling us to play and test our designs.” – said Aidan Cowley to LEGO representatives.

LEGO Space Bricks On Display

Fifteen of the LEGO-inspired Space Bricks will be displayed at select Lego Stores in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Denmark, Spain and Australia. People all over the world will have three months to see them: from 24th June to 20th September 2024.

In the UK the ESA LEGO Space Bricks will be on display at the LEGO Store, Leicester Square in London.

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