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Architecture dean Suermann featured in New York Times for moon-based habitat project work with NASA 

A new moon mission is being planned by NASA, one where ordinary people could live long-term in lunar structure homes in a subdivision-like community, possibly by 2040. 

The particulars of the ambitious mission, which includes partnering with academics and industry leaders to advance and utilize new earth side technology to overcome obstacles around taking up residence on the moon, are outlined in a New York Times article by Debra Kamin. 

Among those featured as sources working with NASA and associated groups include Austin-based construction technology company ICON, which would be involved in a space-based construction system to 3D print nearly anything needed on the moon with concrete, from landing pads to habitats. 

Weighing in on the challenges and feasibility of constructing in space and consulting with NASA to develop a robot-operated system to build is Patrick Suermann, interim dean of Texas A&M’s School of Architecture and former head of its Department of Construction Science. 

For building, Suermann told the Times, “Chemistry is the same up there, but physics are different. Traveling light is critical, because every additional kilogram of weight carried on a rocket to the moon costs about $1,000,000.

“Carrying materials from Earth to build in space is unsustainable,” he said. “And there’s no Home Depot up there. So you either have to know how to use what’s up there, or send everything you need.”


A rendering provided by ICON depicting an overhead view of its plan for Project Olympus: housing on the moon made in part with 3-D printing technology that would build with specialized lunar concrete created from rock chips, mineral fragments and dust that exist in situ. (ICON via The New York Times)

The Times further outlines Suermann’s expertise on the subject, noting that he was a civil engineering professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy and has built projects in some of the most remote spots on Earth, including Afghanistan’s Helmand province and the Arctic Circle. 

“Building in space,” he told the Times, “reminds him of the lesson he learned then – the greatest threats to life come not from other humans, but from the environment itself.

“We build a base out of next to nothing in Afghanistan. It’s all the same, just with more radiation and lower gravity,” he said. “Mother Nature and the solar system are going to win every time.”

Read the full article at the New York Times.

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