SkyriseCities headquarters is closed for the holidays. We'll be back with our regularly scheduled editorial on January 2nd, but we've collected fantastical projects that leave solid earth to give you something to read while we're away.

Since 2012, Foster + Partners has been working alongside the European Space Agency (ESA) on a project aimed at constructing a Lunar Habitation module on the surface of the Moon. Based largely on the science of robotics and 3D printing, the proposed four-person Moon base would be constructed entirely without direct human assistance. The base along with its protective rock-matter outer casing would be put in place and covered over by a self-automated robot equipped with a 3D printer and shovel. 

Lunar Habitation viewed from above, image via Foster + Partners

The first step in building the base involves successfully landing the construction robot and building materials on the Moon. Once safely landed, an inflatable completely sealed dome and living pod would be released onto the build site, where it would be inflated and anchored in place. After this, the real work begins, as the construction robot collects several tons of lunar soil known as regolith before using it as a base from which to construct the protective mineral cover for the dome using a 3D printer. 

Cross-section diagram of Lunar Habitation, image via Foster + Partners

Built as a sort of high-tech lunar igloo, the module's outer covering would be added one micro-layer at a time. The reconstituted regolith would be applied by the 3D printer as it passes over the entire build site one revolution after another, until the dome is sealed in a rocky sheath and its future inhabitants protected from gamma radiation, lunar storms, and exposure. 

Lunar Habitation as it will appear once complete, image via Foster + Partners

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Foster + Partners has been busy perfecting their process in a controlled atmosphere laboratory. The successful construction of a 1.5-ton mockup structure, made from similar materials and built using a robotic 3D printer, has produced positive results. The project today is still highly exploratory and experimental, providing hope for the future of extraterrestrial construction. 

Construction in progress at the Lunar Habitation laboratory, image via Foster + Partners

Below, an explanatory video highlights the process from start to finish, complete with 3D animated visuals, covering every step of construction from launch to human occupation:

For while it will likely be many, many years until anything like the proposed Lunar Habitation is ever built, the project is nevertheless an intriguing one. The possibilities introduced by new technologies and breakthroughs in the fields of 3D printing and robotics could one day allow humankind to explore life in outer space as a real possibility, no longer the stuff of science fiction. 

Tell us what you think of this project in the comments section below!