The race to build a manned research station on the moon has been slowly picking up steam in recent years, with several developed nations actively studying a variety of construction methods. In just the past few months, the European Space Agency revealed a design involving 3D-printed structures and the Russian Federal Space Agency announced plans for a moon base by 2037. Now international design agency, Architecture Et Cetera (A-ETC), has thrown its hat into the ring with a proposal for SinterHab, a moon base consisting of bubble-like compartments coated in a protective layer of melted lunar dust.
A design team of Tomas Rousek, Katarina Eriksson and Dr. Ondrej Doule collaborated with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory on a possible lunar station located near the Shackleton crater of the moon's south pole.
SinterHab is based around NASA's own concept of a mobile 3D printer that uses lunar dust (known as regolith) for material, called the Microwave Sinterator Freeform Additive Construction System (MS-FACS). Because of the unique properties of regolith – particularly its small size and the presence of iron nanoparticles – specific frequencies of microwave radiation can effectively heat the material well past its melting point and reform it into a ceramic-like substance. Researchers at Washington State University even tested this method on some man-made regolith provided by NASA with promising results.