Future lunar bases could be built with LEGO moon bricks

3D-printed blocks made from meteorite dust offer a promising new spin on the iconic toy design.
3D printed Lego moon brick made from meteorite dust against space background
Researchers used meteorite dust as a stand-in for the moon's regolith. Credit: LEGO

There are countless complexities to consider ahead of establishing a permanent base on the moon, but one potential project may not require complex chemistry and engineering techniques. In fact, it may resemble child’s play—specifically with LEGO bricks.

Livable lunar facilities will require seriously tough construction materials to protect its inhabitants, but ferrying all the necessary components between Earth and the moon could easily push costs higher than space agencies can handle. Experts have long believed that harvesting resources from the moon itself could provide much of what astronauts need to build and maintain base structures. Researchers are particularly interested in what can be done with the environment’s copious amounts of regolith—all that dust, rock, and fine particulates that coat the moon’s surface. But while regolith is widely understood to be possible building block ingredients, what those building blocks will exactly look like remains to be seen.

Close up of meteorite dust
The space brick includes a thermoplastic polymer binder. Credit: LEGO

A team of scientists at the European Space Agency recently turned to some of the most iconic bricks ever invented for inspiration. In an announcement earlier this month, ESA and LEGO revealed proof-of-concept lunar base blocks that snap together exactly like the tiny plastic toys.

“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,” ESA science officer Aidan Cowley said in a statement. “The result is amazing, and while the bricks may look a little rougher than usual, importantly the clutch power still works, enabling us to play and test our designs.”

Briefcase filled with LEGO moon bricks
The space bricks will be on display at LEGO stores around the world. Credit: LEGO

However, there’s a bit of a catch to the first generation of Lego moon bricks—they technically aren’t made from regolith. That’s because, while the lunar dust is abundant on Earth’s satellite, the only actual regolith here on Earth are a handful of samples collected from the Apollo missions, Russia’s Luna rovers, and China’s Chang’e-5 probe (at least until China’s Chang’e-6 spacecraft returns).

[Related: The $200 meteorite-infused vodka is refreshingly tasty.]

Given the material’s terrestrial scarcity, researchers decided to create their own regolith stand-in using meteorite dust from a hunk of 4.5 billion-year-old space rock recovered in Northwest Africa back in 2000. After combining its miniscule metal grains and chondrules (round, molten meteor fragments) with a thermoplastic polymer called polylactide, the team then threw their new material into a 3D printer and set the device to create bricks featuring Lego’s telltale rectangular design and clickable studs.

Whether or not Artemis astronauts will one day take shelter in Lego-inspired bunkhouses remains to be seen, but the new proof-of-concept is a welcome additional possibility when everything is still on the table for space agencies. For the time being, at least, the ESA’s space bricks are embarking on a world tour from June 24-September 20, 2024. US locations include:

  • The LEGO Store, Mall of America, Bloomington, Minnesota
  • The LEGO Store, Disney Springs, Florida
  • The LEGO Store, Water Tower Place, Chicago
  • The LEGO Store, Disneyland Resort, California
  • The LEGO Store, 5th Avenue, New York