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international space station

Few emerging technologies have as much potential to change the future of space exploration as 3D printing. And NASA wants to make that future happen.

Working with Made In Space, which specializes in low-gravity additive manufacturing, NASA plans to send a 3D printer to the International Space Station (ISS) next August, reports Space.com.

For astronauts, the potential here is huge: Rather than bring certain parts with them on trips, explorers can print them as they’re needed. According to NASA, roughly 30 percent of parts on the ISS could be replicated with 3D printers.

“[3D printing] will allow us to live and work in space with the same efficiency and productivity that we do on Earth, with the ultimate objective being to eliminate reliance on materials and parts launched from the ground,” NASA product manager Niki Werkheiser said in a statement.

While the Made in Space project will focus on making spare parts and science equipment, NASA is also trying to figure out how it can use the technology to feed astronauts as well. Last week, the agency announced that it was giving a $125,000 grant for research into so-called food printers, which synthesize foods like chocolate from raw materials.

For astronauts, 3D printing could just be the most convenient invention ever.

Photo: NASA

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