In 2017, we received a NASA Small Technology Transfer Research (STTR) Phase 1 grant in partnership with Honeybee Robotics to develop Planetary LEGOs—interlocking bricks for horizontal and vertical construction applications made using sintered Hawaiian volcanic basalt. Hawaiian basalt closely resembles Martian and lunar regolith in chemical composition and appearance, and the blocks have uses for both Earth and space applications.

Together with Honeybee Robotics, we improved the LEGO design while developing an automated construction process to make them. We found the ideal sintering temperature and duration to mold the blocks with improved durability and volume. Enlisting help from the bright minds of our interns, the LEGO design was reimagined for more versatile applications, including vertical and horizontal construction. Our friends at Honeybee Robotics designed the robotic mechanisms needed to automate the process of building and deploying the blocks.

We created the initial design for the Planetary LEGO in 2016 during the Robotic VT/VL Pad project in 2016. Credit: ʻEna Media Hawaiʻi.

We created the initial block design in 2016 for the Robotically built VT/VL Pad project. Creating interlocking basalt pavers, our team robotically constructed an ISRU launch and landing pad and tested the pavers’ durability with a simulated rocket blast. The blocks showed promising results, as well as areas for improvement.