Astronauts getting 3-D printer
Cape Canaveral, Fla – . — The 3-D printing boom is about to invade space.
NASA is sending a 3-D printer to the International Space Station in hopes that astronauts will be able to one day fix their spacecraft by cranking out spare parts on the spot.
The printer, made by a Northern California company called Made in Space, is among more than 5,000 pounds of space station cargo that's stuffed into a SpaceX Dragon capsule for a pre-dawn liftoff Saturday.
Besides real-time replacement parts at the station, NASA envisions astronauts, in the decades ahead, making entire habitats at faraway destinations like Mars.
"If we're really going to set up shop on Mars," we have to do this, Jeff Sheehy, NASA's senior technologist, said Friday. "We really can't afford to bring everything we need for an indefinite amount of time. We'll need to get to the point where we can make things that we need as we go."
At Kennedy Space Center, the company showed off a number of objects made by its 3-D printers. On display was a scaled-down model of an air filter that the Apollo 13 astronauts devised to survive their aborted moon mission in 1970. It took five hours to print the model in a lab.
SpaceX is making the supply run for NASA, the same California company that just won a huge contract to deliver U.S. astronauts to the space station. Its Falcon 9 rocket with an unmanned Dragon was scheduled to blast off at 2:14 a.m., although rainy weather threatened to interfere.
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