At last, science fiction dreamers see their dream come true! Colonizing the outer void spaces is no longer a fantastical enterprise due to the first 3D International Space Station’s printer, designed and built by California-based startup Made In Space.
The printer succeeded to produce its first part, an extruder plate, off of the planet Earth. The 3D printer created it layer by layer, as it can do for other pieces, out of plastic, metal or any other feedstock material. This achievement was characterized by Made In Space CEO, Aaron Kemmer as “a huge milestone, not only for Made In Space and NASA, but for humanity as a whole.”
The extruder plate measuring approximately 3 inches long by 1.5 inches wide by 0.25 inches thick (7.6 by 3.8 by 0.6 cm) and features the logos of both Made In Space and NASA. It holds in the printer’s electronic board and wiring and has, according to Kemmer, a symbolic significance for man’s future ability of solving any problems on space stations.
As he sees it, the printer allows astronauts to always have a back-up plan, were there something to go wrong on the space station. It’s simple to create (or rather, print) the perfect solution.
The printer is part of the collaborative project of NASA and Made In Space. It was launched in September aboard the unmanned capsule belonging to SpaceX’s. Then, on Nov. 17, the printer was finally installed in the orbiting laboratory’s Microgravity Science Glovebox by Barry “Butch” Wilmore, Expedition 42 commander.
One of the first phase’s main objectives in the 3D Print project is to make sure it is functioning in orbit as well as it does on the ground, as NASA officials have declared, by means of comparing samples from space with ones produced before it left the Earth. The second phase will actually focus on producing (printing out ) the parts required on the space station, according to 3D Print program manager Niki Werkheiser (NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama).
What could follow next? Producing daily objects, food, some nice pieces of furniture for the space station? In time, this technology could reduce the cost of space flight, solve the issue of launching products into space instead of producing them on the spot, as well as solving the future mankind plans for a faster and easier colonization of space, on the Moon or Mars.
Kemmer and the company hope to launch a second 3D printer to the space station, this time with the clear mission of producing parts rather than demonstrating that it can, and even start a “recycler” project to turn trash aboard the orbiting lab into 3D-printed objects, no later than 2015 or 2016.
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