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La Agencia Espacial Europea proyecta imprimir bases en la Luna

1 febrero 2013 - 10:18 - Autor:

Una de los obstáculos importantes con que se ha topado la exploración lunar es la construcción de bases en nuestro satélite, debido al altísimo coste de acarrear los materiales desde la Tierra. Sin embargo, la Agencia Espacial Europea (ESA) planea una alternativa mucho más barata y original: utilizar impresoras 3D para construir las bases con materiales de la propia Luna.

El innovador proyecto, anunciado por la ESA en su página web, está impulsado por el despacho de arquitectos Foster + Partners, que ha ideado una estructura celular con protección contra la radiación espacial y los micrometeoritos que incorpora un refugio presurizado para los astronautas. Pero el refugio no se llevaría desde nuestro planeta sino que se imprimiría a partir de 1,5 toneladas de materiales de la propia superficie lunar, según detalla la nota de prensa.

“La tecnología de impresión 3D ya ha producido estructuras enteras en la Tierra”, explica Laurent Pambaguian, responsable del proyecto en la ESA. “Nuestro equipo industria ha investigado si un proceso análogo podría utilizarse para construir en el hábitat lunar”. La respuesta provisional es sí: a modo de demostración, una impresora industrial construyó un muro de 1,5 toneladas con la estructura de celda, similar a un nido de pájaro, para obtener “una buena combinación de resistencia y peso”.

Las impresoras 3D llevan desarrollándose desde los años 80 pero no fue hasta la década pasada cuando su uso se extendió, gracias al abaratamiento de sus componentes. Actualmente, se utilizan en nuestro planeta para crear incluso arrecifes de coral artificiales para proteger las playas de la costa norte de Bahrein, en el Golfo Pérsico, del azote de las olas.

Simulación de una base de multidomos construida a partir de tecnología de impresión 3D.

Volviendo a la Luna, los arquitectos involucrados en el proyecto están convencidos de que la impresión 3D ofrece los medios potenciales para permitir asentamientos lunares minimizando la logística desde la Tierra: “Las nuevas posibilidades que abre este trabajo pueden ser consideradas por las agencias espaciales internacionales como parte del desarrollo de una estrategia de exploración común”, afirma Scott Hovland, del equipo humano de vuelos espaciales de la ESA.

La impresoras actuales tienen un ritmo medio de impresión de 2 metros por hora, aunque la próxima generación alcanzará los 3,5 metros por hora, según un portavoz de Monolite, empresa italiana especializada en este tipo de soluciones. Según su fundador, Enrico Dini, para levantar estructuras impresas en nuestro satélite, “primero tenemos que mezclar el material lunar simulado con óxido de magnesio. Esto se convierte en un ‘papel’ que podemos imprimir”.

El “material lunar simulado” no es otro que roca basáltica procedente de un volcán en Italia central, cuya composición recuerda en un 99,8% al de la corteza lunar. La impresión tridimensional funciona mejor a temperatura ambiente y, dada la gran fluctuación de las temperaturas en la superficie de la Luna, el mejor lugar para llevar a cabo un proyecto como el que imagina la ESA serían los polos lunares, donde el clima es mucho más estable.

Visto en ESA, vía ABC Paraguay. Más información en The Register y Phys.org.

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