This week, NASA is going to send the first 3D printer to the International Space Station. The purpose is to test the manufacture of spare parts in space and hopefully reduce the number of spare parts we send up there.
One of the problems of being off planet for a long time is that humans, as a general rule, require food and drink. Fortunately, food can be planned for and water can be close to 100% recycled. It’s hard to bring parts for every conceivable part you might need to replace, so being able to “push print” to make parts that break or wear out is a great addition to the toolset available to future trips.
In my day job we use our 3D printer to print prototypes at a huge cost savings over what it cost to make a single sample part just a few years ago. It’s been a great addition to our toolkit, and 3D printing certainly has a place in the future of operating in space.
Sometimes we just make stuff that’s fun….