Tea, Earl Grey, hot. Those are the words spoken by Capt. Picard to the computer when he wants his favorite beverage replicated. While we're still a long ways away from that becoming reality, we're taking steps toward it.
NASA will be taking that step when it takes a 3D printer up to the International Space Station in June 2014.
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NASA astronaut Timothy "TJ" Creamer made the science fiction reference, saying, "3D printing provides us with the ability to do our own Star Trek right there on the spot."
This will prove hugely valuable for the ISS so that replacement parts can be fabricated there without having to rely on spares, backup systems, or a shipment from Earth. Spare part blueprints can be preloaded on the printer, or can even be uploaded from ground support.
Not just any 3D printer can be used in space, as the one destined for the ISS – designed by a company called Made in Space – had to be tested on zero-G parabolic flights in order to verify that it would work in microgravity.
It's interesting to note that NASA isn't just working on 3D printed plastic parts, as it's invested in pizza replication technology.
Agreed, it would seem that this would be a terrible thing for normal trips with the shuttle. However, for something like the ISS or other long term missions this could be a great thing. Rather than bringing a bunch of spare parts with you, you could bring that same weight in plastics and have it be used for any number of things that you need rather than a predetermined amount of replacements that you may or may not need. That can be extremely useful.
The obvious issue is that anything critical needs to be on-hand which means that they need to pre-print a few things before they are needed, or they just need to bring a starter set of parts to begin with.
I'm single, and I learned this on my own as a kid through simple observation of adults.
Sheesh... with the access people have to the Internet, you have a wealth of information at your fingertips to help you in this process.
As for 3d printing food - good idea actually, but only if the synthetic food in question is designed to be actually HEALTHY for the body and can even augment natural functions (such as boost production of youthful stem-cells and enhance the immune system).
We certainly have the technology and knowledge to do so, but the problem is, given the system we live in, they will probably just make it to be as 'cheap as possible' (monetarily speaking) and end up producing things of questionable quality that are no better, if not worse than GMO foods filled with pesticides and chemicals, which after a prolonged period of time likely produce a cumulative effect in the body and end up causing problems just so you would go to the doctor and be treated.
But, I digress, perhaps it will be different. Only time will tell.