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Fully Auto Moon

we have all we need right there
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The next time we land rovers on the moon or Mars, let's drop a package that contains:

1) 3D printer 2) Solar panels 3) initial printing mass 4) robotic shovel/grinder 5) radio/computer

It just harvests dust/rock from the surface over time to build whatever we want! No more sending up tons of mass on ships.

With enough heat (from solar energy sources), we could melt rock for the printer material.

Not enough energy? Create reflectors & position more & more of them to slowly build up a solar-thermal plant with the trickle you have from the initial panels.

sophocles, Mar 27 2014

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       First thing I suggest you build is a 3D printer maintenance machine, capable of replacing the tips. Melted rock could be a little hot.   

       Is your 3D printer capable of oil-quenching steel?
RayfordSteele, Mar 27 2014
  

       RayfordSteele, yes, of course. It's a thought- experiment.   

       But, I love the spirit of RepRap (I'm sure you know already, but those who don't can look it up).   

       So, essentially, if we need a maintenance machine, that's one of the first things this would build.   

       If we launch several of these "kits" onto a planet, in 6 months intervals, we could take the learning from one & apply it to the next one, so it knows better what to build first, & next, etc.
sophocles, Mar 27 2014
  

       The laser-sintering type of 3D printer might be suitable here. Moon rocks CAN be sintered, I think, because they are all igneous, not sedimentary.
Vernon, Mar 27 2014
  

       Vernon: Yes, extruded or sintered, not sure what might work best. But, just send both in the next kits then. If we send up small mass kits every 6 months, we can refine the package. It would still stay small, with the benefit of getting most of it's mass from the destination, & only need to ship it's "smarts + minimal startup materials"
sophocles, Mar 27 2014
  

       //Moon rocks CAN be sintered, I think, because they are all igneous, not sedimentary.//   

       Why would their igneosity make them any more sinterable than sedimentary rock?
MaxwellBuchanan, Mar 27 2014
  

       Igneous rocks have been melted before, and sintering involves melting. Sedimentary rocks have grains that aren't really stuck together tightly. Metamorphic rocks are sedimentary rocks that have been subjected to heat and pressure, and they should be more sinter-able, too --but since the Moon never had an environment supporting sedimentary-rock formation, it won't have any metamorphic rocks, either.   

       Perhaps I should have mentioned meteorites on the Moon, though. Most of them will be igneous, also (when they aren't made of metal, or are carbonaceous chondrites). A few may be sedimentary or even metamorphic, because they will have come from some place like Earth or Mars, where such rocks can form. But they will be quite rare, compared to all the igneous rocks.
Vernon, Mar 27 2014
  

       I think you can cement the dust using Sulphur. I read this in an engineering periodical only yesterday.
Ling, Mar 28 2014
  

       Find a deposit of mercury compounds, melt some, electrolytically separate the mercury and gases (I'm guessing about the gases), and now you have fluids to work with.   

       I think you need fluids (and maybe a bit of gravitation) to extract energy from hot stuff, mechanically?   

       Alternatively build an open "air" silicon wafer plant, expanding from that to lunar solar panel manufacture.   

       Trying to bootstrap like this makes sense to me. Beyond some point, it would start to become self-sustaining, and from there, carrying on the do something similar to other moons and planets is a much smaller next step. (There's already some pastry up there from a previous visit.)
skoomphemph, Mar 28 2014
  
      
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