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How Lego® bricks are helping scientists build astronaut shelters on the moon

Scientists at the European Space Agency (ESA) have turned to their love of Lego brick building when designing launch pads and shelters for astronauts visiting the moon, as part of the Artemis program. To test whether space materials could be used to create structures, the team 3D printed similar to Lego bricks with meteorite dust to see if could still be used as a building block on small scale versions of structures.

How Lego® bricks are helping scientists build astronaut shelters on the moon
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The resulting ESA Space Bricks will now go on display in select Lego Stores in the USA, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Denmark, Spain and Australia plus the Lego House, in Billund, Denmark, to inspire the builders of tomorrow of how Lego brick building can help solve out of this world problems.

The real structures will be built on the moon, using materials found there, but they first needed to understand if a space material could even be made into building blocks and they needed to do this on a small scale. The space material on the moon is regolith, but there is only a very small sample available on Earth, collected from the Apollo mission. So, the team turned to another, very similar space material – meteorites, which they ground up into dust and mixed with a small amount of polylactide and regolith simulant and used this to 3D print bricks similar to Lego bricks– making the ESA Space Bricks. The meteorite they used is approximately 4.5 billion years old and was originally discovered in North-West Africa in 2000 and is technically classed as a L3-6. It is a brecciated stone which has many different elements incorporated within it, such as large metal grains, inclusions, chondrules and other stone meteorite elements.

Talking about the project, ESA Science Officer Aidan Cowley said, “Our teams are working towards the future of space travel and take inspiration from not just what’s above us, but also what we can find on Earth. 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. 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 whilst the bricks may look a little rougher than usual, importantly the clutch power still works, enabling us to play and test our designs.”

Daniel Meehan, Creative Lead at The Lego Group, notes the real-world impact Lego bricks can have outside of creative play and says, “We recently found out that space remains an area of huge curiosity with 87% of Gen Alpha kids interested in discovering new planets, stars, and galaxies. With the ESA team using the Lego System-in-Play to advance space travel, it shows kids the sky really is the limit when it comes to Lego brick building and we hope it encourages children to have a go at building their own space shelters!

Following the important part in developing potential future infrastructure on the Moon, 15 ESA Space Bricks will go on display in select Lego Stores globally to help encourage kids to find out more about space travel and be inspired to build their very own moon shelters. The ESA Space Bricks will be on display in select Lego Stores in the USA, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Denmark, Spain and Australia plus the Lego House, in Billund, Denmark from 24th June to 20th September.

More information https://www.esa.int