Students with NASA’s Artemis Generation have designed a reusable landing pad that could be 3D printed from lunar materials. Last year, students used a cement-based material and a concrete 3D printer to create a subscale prototype for the project.
A team of undergraduate students from ten U.S. colleges and universities – all members of NASA’s Artemis Generation – have designed a 3D printable, reusable launch and landing pad for future lunar missions.
Dubbed the Lunar Plume Alleviation Device, or Lunar PAD, the concept is designed to be 3D printed using the lunar regolith material found directly on the surface of the Moon. It focuses on remedying an unsolved problem experienced when initiating landing burns, whereby the force from an engine’s exhaust can cause loose lunar dust to kick up and stir.
Its novel mandala-esque internal geometry serves to direct lunar dust outward with a laminar flow, reducing the intensity of the otherwise very turbulent dust storms caused by lunar landings.
The student team even presented a research paper on its concept landing pad earlier this month at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ 2021 SciTech Forum. John Dankanich, Chief Technologist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, stated, “When you look at this publication, the diversity of students and schools is very unique.
There is a clear advantage in engaging a wide range of diverse teams to develop innovative solutions that address NASA technology gaps.”
A 3D -printed Lunar Pad
The design was first proposed at the NASA Proposal Writing and Evaluation Experience back in 2019, a 12 week training course organized by Dankanich. The idea was called Dust DEVILS at the time, and its top ranking won the team funding and technical support from NASA’s in-house subject matter experts.
Then, in June of 2020, the team presented the final design to experts at Marshall, which secured them the funding necessary to print and test a prototype here on Earth.