ESA uses meteorite dust to print Lego ‘space bricks’

The European Space Agency (ESA) has developed a Lego-like brick made from meteorite dust as it explores ways to build on the Moon for the Artemis mission.

Scientists used a 3D printer to create “space bricks'' from the dust of a 24 billion-year-old meteorite that was discovered in North-West Africa in 2000.

ESA hopes to use similar technology to print future astronaut shelters on the Moon as part of the Artemis mission.

The European agency is a partner in the NASA-led Artemis mission, which aims to re-establish human presence on the Moon and eventually build a permanent base there to facilitate future missions to Mars.

Regolith, a space material found on the Moon, would have to be used to build structures there. There is only a very small sample of regolith available on Earth that was collected during the Apollo mission, so scientists turned to meteorite dust as the closest alternative.

“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,” said ESA Science Office Aidan Cowley.

“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,” Cowley said.

“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.”

Some of the bricks printed by ESA are now on display in selected Lego stores, including in the US, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Denmark, Spain, and Australia.