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Don't Pack Food, Just 3D Print it in Mars, NASA Says

Jun 02, 2013 12:42 AM EDT
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With all this talk of "rats" being found on Mars and plans of settling a human colony on Mars by 2023, one question remains, what will humans eat on the Red Planet? 3-D printed food, of course.

NASA has awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I contract to Systems and Materials Research Consultancy of Austin, Texas to study the feasibility of using additive manufacturing, better known as 3D printing, for making food in space. The group will receive $125,000 for a six-month research program in order to develop a 3D printed food system for long duration space missions.

NASA's chief administrator Charles Bolden discussed the role of 3D printers during a recent press tour of the Ames Research Center. The current space food is selected before astronauts ever leave the ground and crew members don't have the ability to personalize recipes or really prepare foods themselves. That will all soon change with the

According to ComputerWorldBolden believes the technology could be "key," particularly as the agency explores missions to Mars and beyond.

"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."

NASA recognizes in-space and additive manufacturing offers the potential for new mission opportunities, whether "printing" food, tools or entire spacecraft. Additive manufacturing offers opportunities to get the best fit, form and delivery systems of materials for deep space travel. NASA is a leading partner in the president's National Network for Manufacturing Innovation and the Advanced Manufacturing Initiative. 

"The president's Advanced Manufacturing Initiative cites additive manufacturing, or '3-D printing,' as one of the key technologies that will keep U.S. companies competitive and maintain world leadership in our new global technology economy," said Michael Gazarik, NASA's associate administrator for space technology in Washington. "We're taking that technology to new heights, by working with Made in Space to test 3-D printing aboard the space station. Taking advantage of our orbiting national laboratory, we'll be able to test new manufacturing techniques that benefit our astronauts and America's technology development pipeline."

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