NASA asks: Could 3-D-printed food fuel a mission to Mars?
By Amrita Jayakumar, Published: May 21
NASA can send robots to Mars, no problem. But if it’s ever going to put humans on the Red Planet, it has to figure out how to feed them over the course of a years-long mission.
So the space agency has funded research for what could be the ultimate nerd solution: a 3-D printer that creates entrees or desserts at the touch of a button.
Yes, it’s another case of life imitating “Star Trek” (remember the food replicator?). In this case, though, the creators hope there is an application beyond deep-space pizza parties. The technology could also be used to feed hungry populations here on Earth.
Texas-based Systems and Materials Research Corp. has been selected for a $125,000 grant from NASA to develop a 3-D printer that will create “nutritious and flavorful” food suitable for astronauts, according to the company’s proposal. Using a “digital recipe,” the printers will combine powders to produce food that has the structure and texture of, well, actual food. Including smell.
The project — the details of which NASA plans to finalize this week — was presented at the Humans 2 Mars Summit in Washington earlier this month. At the presentation, Anjan Contractor, an engineer at SMRC and the project manager, explained how the idea originated: he had used a 3-D printer to print chocolate for his wife.
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