How 3D printing could transform space exploration

NASA chief Charles Golden sees huge potential in emerging technology

Credit: Image credit: Flickr/WHOLOGWHY

While most of us on Earth grapple with the possibilities and implications of 3D printing -- which enables users to create anything from toys to real guns -- NASA is eager to see what the new technology can do as we explore the stars. Of course, if you've seen this episode of Lost in Space, you would know that 3D printing already has been used beyond our humble planet, by a tiny band of robots who worship the Robinson family's Robot. But NASA chief Charles Golden is determined to catch up! reports that Golden mused about the potential uses of 3D technology in space exploration during a recent tour of NASA's Ames Research Center, where a prototype 3D printer was displayed.

"As NASA ventures further into space, whether redirecting an asteroid or sending humans to Mars, we'll need transformative technology to reduce cargo weight and volume," Bolden said. "In the future, perhaps astronauts will be able to print the tools or components they need while in space."

Or their own food. NASA is funding development of a 3D printer that could create food for astronauts in deep space, possibly eliminating the need to ship or grow food well beyond Earth. The research is being conducted with Systems and Materials Research Corp., whose owner say his company' machine already has printed chocolate and is confident they can expand the menu to healthy, nutritional foods. Another company, Made in Space, will launch one of its 3D printers to the International Space Station in 2014 "in the first test of off-Earth manufacturing," reports. Here's a video of the 3D food printing project (and here's a link to it in case the video embedded below doesn't show up in your browser of choice):
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