Quincy Bean, the principal investigator for the space station printer, unboxes some special cargo, including the first items made in space with a 3D printer. (NASA’s Marshall Center via YouTube)
You don’t have to look hard on YouTube to find a whole host of “unboxing” videos. But NASA’s latest is a lot cooler than the usual unpacking of electronics and kitchen appliances: In the above video, NASA engineers unpack objects not of this Earth.
Okay, so they’re wrenches. But they’re not of this Earth, guys. They were born in space!
[NASA just ‘emailed’ a wrench to space for the first time]
NASA’s 3-D printer on the International Space Station built a wrench. Now, the wrench and other parts have been returned to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. To protect the parts, they will remain sealed in bags until testing begins. (Emmett Given/NASA/MSFC)
These are the first 3-D printed objects to be created on the International Space Station. These bits and bobs are just a proof of concept, but one day astronauts could theoretically print anything they needed to on demand. The process is pretty slow, so for now it’s not going to be much use in a dire emergency. But promising advances in Earth-based 3-D printing methods might change that soon.
[This mind-blowing new 3-D printing technique is inspired by ‘Terminator 2’]
ISS’s 3-D printer was installed in November 2014 by Barry “Butch” Wilmore (in collaboration with Made in Space Inc.), and 21 items were built by the end of the year, all of which were returned to Earth in February. They’ll be closely compared to identical items created by the same printer before it left for ISS. That way NASA engineers can assess just how well 3-D printing works in the microgravity of the space station.
Rachel Feltman runs The Post’s Speaking of Science blog.
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