Menu
3D printing could help take humans into deep space, NASA says

3D printing could help take humans into deep space, NASA says

3D printer goes to space station next year

NASA scientists plan to take 3D printers into space to enable astronauts to create tools, and even food, onboard the International Space Station and later on the moon or even Mars.

NASA's chief administrator Charles Bolden talked about 3D printers and what the technology could mean to future space exploration during a tour of the Ames Research Center late last week. Speaking to employees, news media and U.S. Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Bolden said the printing technology could be key as humans travel deeper into space.

"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 and components they need in space."

3D printing is a high-tech manufacturing process that creates objects by laying down successive layers. Last week, researchers at Princeton University reported that they used the process to create a functioning ear that that can "hear" radio frequencies beyond the range of normal human capability.

Made in Space, a company based in the Ames Research Park in Moffett Field, Calif., noted in a recent blog post that it is testing 3D printers in zero-gravity environments for NASA. Testing will be focused on the long-term effects of microgravity on the technology.

The company also said it is scheduled to send a 3D printer to be tested on the space station in 2014.

NASA also announced last week that it is exploring the idea of using 3D printers to create food for humans on deep space missions.

NASA awarded a research contract to Systems and Materials Research Consultancy of Austin to study the feasibility of using 3D printing to create human-grade food. The space agency referred to the idea as a "very early stage concept" that may or may not mature into usable technology.

It is several years from being tested in space, according to NASA.

If the technology to "print" food on a spacecraft could be perfected, it would be a huge boon for space travel.

One of the many obstacles to sending humans to Mars or beyond is how the astronauts would be able to carry enough food on the spacecraft for a trip that could last months or years.

This article, NASA: 3D printing could help take humans into deep space, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

Read more about emerging technologies in Computerworld's Emerging Technologies Topic Center.


Follow Us

Join the newsletter!

Or
Error: Please check your email address.

Tags governmenthardware systemsNASAHondaEmerging TechnologiesGovernment/IndustriesBPPrinceton University

Featured

Slideshows

Bumper channel crowd kicks off first After Hours of 2018

Bumper channel crowd kicks off first After Hours of 2018

After Hours made a welcome return to the channel social calendar with a bumper crowd of partners, distributors and vendors descending on The Jefferson in Auckland to kick-start 2018. Photos by Gino Demeer.

Bumper channel crowd kicks off first After Hours of 2018
Looking back at the top 15 M&A deals in NZ during 2017

Looking back at the top 15 M&A deals in NZ during 2017

In 2017, merger and acquisitions fever reached new heights in New Zealand, with a host of big name deals dominating the headlines. Reseller News recaps the most important transactions of the Kiwi channel during the past 12 months.

Looking back at the top 15 M&A deals in NZ during 2017
Kiwi channel closes 2017 with After Hours

Kiwi channel closes 2017 with After Hours

The channel in New Zealand came together to celebrate the close of 2017, as the final After Hours played out in front of a bumper Auckland crowd.

Kiwi channel closes 2017 with After Hours
Show Comments