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pledged of $700,000pledged of $700,000 goal
Funding Canceled
Funding for this project was canceled by the project creator on Mar 25 2013
Joseph YbarraBy Joseph Ybarra
First created
Joseph YbarraBy Joseph Ybarra
First created
pledged of $700,000pledged of $700,000 goal
Funding Canceled
Funding for this project was canceled by the project creator on Mar 25 2013

Building a native Moon base

Posted by Joseph Ybarra (Creator)

Howdy y'all! This is Jo Shindler writing again and I have a scientific scenario for you all to think about! We really enjoyed thinking this one through and I want to get your feedback on the subject.

One of the biggest draws to Shackleton Crater for me is the seriousness with which we are writing the game's story. Although we are rooting Shackleton Crater in as much contemporary science as we can, there is some science we have to creatively solve. This became especially apparent when we started brainstorming on the second stage of play - how does one actually begin a construction project on the Moon without shipping material from Earth?

Let's start by addressing what we found to be the biggest issues:

  • Shipping material from Earth is prohibitively expensive both in terms of energy expenditure and materials moved. Not only does it take a lot of fuel to move a ship but anything you want to move that doesn't fit in the cargo hold will take multiple trips. 
  • Traditional construction techniques have limited application - our structures must be airtight, superbly insulated and strongly reinforced. 
  • You don't want a wide variety of specialized tools - redundancy in your kit means if something breaks it can be replaced more quickly. 

So what's our answer? 3D printers and solar furnaces. These devices will be essential to any future colonization effort on any planet away from home. Since the core of our stage two construction theory relies on the understanding of material science, we need to share with you a couple of words and engineering concepts. 

Let’s start with 3D printers. A 3D printer transforms a drawing into a three dimensional object by creating it layer by successive layer. Each layer is a thinly sliced, horizontal cross-section of the eventual object. 3D printing is kind of like making a multi-layer cake, with the baker laying down each layer one at a time until the entire cake is formed. 

The next thing we need to understand is “regolith”. Regolith is the blanket of soil, broken rocks, dust, and other tiny objects that cover some celestial bodies like the Earth and Moon. On Earth, the more common name for regolith is soil and our soil is created by the weathering of rocks and from other naturally occurring biological processes. On the Moon, since there is no weather, regolith is made up of the debris of asteroid or meteoroid impacts. It isn’t considered soil because the lunar surface does not have any organic material and thus no biological processes like here on Earth. Astronauts describe the lunar regolith as looking a lot like snow powder and found it to be made up of three materials that when combined in the proper way, make incredible building blocks. They are silicon dioxide glass, calcium and magnesium. Remember the picture of Neil Armstrong’s boot on the Moon? That image is created as being one of the best examples showing the fine soot-like regolith that covers the Moon. 

Using a solar furnace, workers would create building blocks or tiles with the Moon’s regolith through sintering. Sintering is the process of heating up powder and turning it into a solid. So the idea here is that you bake the lunar regolith into bricks which are then used to build everything. This work is already being done experimentally here on Earth and shows great promise. Sintered lunar regolith bricks and other building supports are all intended to be generic and uniform so they can be used to make nearly any necessary exterior structure. Furthermore, you only have two real pieces of gear you need to get started; the printer and the furnace. The buildings can then be assembled by robots or humans as your engineering is more or less done for you (since the pieces are generic). This thinking also tells me what I need to tell my concept artists - although, the first thing that comes to mind are igloos... 

Here's where the scenario unfolds: We need to figure out what size and/or quantity of lunar bricks are needed to sufficiently to insulate against heat and radiation. After we figure that out, we then need to figure out how to make the structures airtight. I have several material candidates for that process in mind but haven’t been able to narrow it down to which material is the most viable. One logical extension of our thinking is that you have other 3D printers making sheets of electronics, insulation and/or ablative material to layer on the lunar regolith bricks, with the bricks serving as both insulative mass and structural support. The problem is that the sheet materials are far more difficult to come by without shipping them in. 

This is where I want our community members, our Joes, to weigh in on what you know about advanced engineering and material science. How do you see us resolving these two issues? Even if you don’t know anything about engineering and material sciences, send us your guess. Send your ideas today to the team at . We promise to consider everything and who knows; maybe you’ll solve one of the big questions. 

Thanks for reading and be sure to visit here again soon for our next update! 

Josef Shindler
Vice President, Joe Got Game


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    1. Missing avatar

      JediaKyrol on

      Have you tried contacting NASA for some advice? Most of these guys are huge nerds as well as knowing the subject material pretty well. Not to mention they made this:
      it's a simulation game where you are an astronaut having to do emergency repairs on a lunar research facility.

    2. Raufgar on

      This does make me use my noggin quite a bit... I agree with Dunadin777 in that the use of lunar regolith as a building material would mean an eventual need for a dedicated mining operation on the Moon. However, this need not be purely for building materials.

      One of the aspects of setting up a permanent colony on the Moon is self-sufficiency, which means the need to produce goods for use in-situ or for export back to Earth or other colonies for goods not found on the Moon. One of such possible produce is Helium-3 or He3, said to be embedded in the regolith by solar winds over the millennia. As a possible candidate for Nuclear Fusion, this would likely be one of the main reasons for staying on the Moon, as well as one of the materials that can be extracted during the mining process, aside from Oxygen, Silicon and Iron.

      Speaking of the rigidity of Lunar structures, inflatable structures look to be the the best in terms of the overall space that it can provide versus the need for protection from the elements. Finding or manufacturing the materials needed for the skin on the Moon may need some further thinking.

    3. Brian Hsu on

      Sorry, my previous link is not correct, here is the correct one:

      And as far as I know, is a expert in this field, if you're interested.

    4. Missing avatar

      Schobbo on

      You guys should promote the kickstarter on social media to get more attention. This project looks awesome but I only found it because I was randomly browsing through kickstarter campaigns.

    5. Brian Hsu on

      BTW, there is something about construction using Origami principle. You should take a look at it:…

      It is a quite a interesting way to solve how to put a construction into a spaceship with limited space, and it could expended itself when it's on the moon.

    6. Missing avatar

      Dunadin777 on

      First of all, let me say that my comments are coming from a 3D printing specialist. I work using Zcorp printers, which use a fine plaster composite that is in many ways the most similar to the lunar construction methods you've probably been seeing a lot of lately.

      The biggest issue with large scale 3d printing is that it's a massively inefficient expenditure of energy for big or repetitive projects. The raw materials used for refining regolith into something usable requires incredible refinement. Today, just 30 pounds or so of composite powder can cost hundreds of dollars because the process of getting the raw materials suitable is so intensive. In the lunar scenario, it means that you'd have to invest a lot of time and energy into your sintering plants before you got an effective return in the form of building materials. This is doubly true since the current proposals for 3d printing lunar igloos suggest making walls many feet thick involving thousands of pounds of material. I'd also wonder how quickly this method would exhaust the readily available surface regolith in a given region, forcing you to invest in costly mining projects.

      Alignment and manipulator cleanliness are also key issues, and since lunar regolith is terribly abrasive, regular and careful maintenance is going to be so important then even a robotic 3d printer will probably require intensive manpower for upkeep. I'd be surprised if one engineer could indefinitely operate more than 4 units, or so--which would make engineers and mechanics into a key limiting factor for construction.

    7. Missing avatar

      JediaKyrol on

      Seconding Dana. Kevlar is a likely material to be used as well as being easily manufactured with lunar resources. Though I would like to see a difference between the shipped colony modules and the later on-site manufactured ones. Perhaps the shipped ones are mostly sheets with aluminum frames and use reflection for the majority of their radiation shielding, while the on-sites are shorter, bulkier, and shield mostly by having a large amount of mass...basically from camping tents to igloos.

    8. Dana Carson on

      Look at Lunarpedia… and the Artemis Data Book for collections of lunar colony data.

      Most inflatables use kevlar or similar. That's an organic compound and three of the four main organic elements are in short supply on the moon. CHON, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. Oxygen is easy, the rest are all scarce. To seal a regoith built structure spraying the inside and outside with aluminum should work. Lots of Al oxides in regolith and the oxygen is useful. Instead of making sheets of it just spray the molten metal before finishing the structure.

    9. Supraderk on

      A kickstarter that makes me learn and use my noggin? Where have you been all my life!?

    10. Missing avatar

      Peter Wilhelm on

      I'm a little new to this KS but found it appealing after the collapse of another project (Civitas) that was gearing to be a better SimCity. I know you guys are trying to really be true to the science here, which is what's driving this question (and which I admire!), but please just be sure to carve out an equal amount of time for thinking about how to make the game fun. :) I'm betting your eventual users aren't going to be thinking so much about the material science involved in the construction of their colony, but more about ways to keep the colonists entertained, safe and thriving. Just my 2 cents. I'm sure you've got lots of thought going into all of that too!

    11. Draco18s on

      Here's a thought:

      Instead of using concrete, you could use a similar construction method, only using your lunar regolith. You might not be able to go the sintering route (unless you could sinter the material into a hot goo, which is then extruded) though. But it is Technology of Tomorrow that might work.

    12. Joseph Ybarra Creator on

      Another technology Josef and I have discussed are inflatable modules. They are great for the initial colonization effort, but feel like they would be cumbersome for larger structures. It's also unknown if the material to make the covers can be manufactured on the Moon - if they have to be shipped from Earth, they will have to be phased out eventually.