MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - Andres Campbell, a senior integrated engineering student at Minnesota State University, Mankato, has been working on manufacturing the world’s first 3D printed lunar launch and landing pad as part of NASA’s Artemis Generation student initiative.
Campbell, the principal investigator on the project, has been working with ICON, a 3D printing firm that received funding from NASA to develop the new technology for upcoming missions to the moon.
“It really is Andres driving this process that led it to that kind of success that it’s seen,” stated Dr. Rob Sleezer, Associate Professor at Twin Cities Engineering.
Campbell and his student colleagues across the United States have developed the pad’s prototype at a Texas Military Department location called Camp Swift, just outside of Austin, Texas.
The rocket pad, called the Lunar Pad, is designed to decrease the number of dust clouds caused by the rocket’s powerful engine. It uses a series of pedal-like channels to send the exhaust up and outward, and it traps lunar dust to minimize cloud formation, but that’s not the only problem it prevents.
“You have a large rocket that you’re landing with and that creates a crater underneath where you’re landing. In addition to that, you’re shooting dust up everywhere, and that decreases visibility. They could land on an incline, they could land on a rocky surface, and so all that is dangerous,” said Campbell.
The prototype is a small example of what the real thing could look like. In the future, the plan is to print a bigger version of the pad on the surface of moon using materials found on the moon itself.
Campbell added, “The goal of all of this, hopefully, is to test that design and to test those technologies and hopefully eventually reach a point where we can put it on the moon, we can put it on Mars, or we could even put it here on Earth.”