Beyond cool

NASA Funds 3D Printers In Space to Mine, Fly Asteroids

3D printers in space

NASA funds initiative to use 3D printers in space to mine and fly asteroids… This is why we love NASA.

How should humans mine asteroids in space? By strapping 3D printed gear to them and flying them back to us, of course! At least, that’s what California-based 3D printing company Made in Space wants to do. The RAMA (Reconstituting Asteroids into Mechanical Automata) project has already received $100,000 of funding from Nasa’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program.

The desire to mine asteroids has been around for a while now and most plans to do so are pretty out there. This concept, however, may take the cake. Instead of hopping around the universe with heavy mining equipment in tow, they want the asteroids to come to us. So how does it work?

3D printers in space just got weirder (Image: Zoe Brinkley)
3D printers in space just got weirder (Image: Zoe Brinkley)

How the “Seed Craft” Uses 3D Printers in Space

Made in Space would first send their “Seed Craft” to the chosen asteroid. The 3D printer bots would mine resources and use those resources to 3D print a propulsion and navigation system. All the bot has to do is launch mass in the opposite direction, like a rocket, to fly themselves to the nearest outpost.

The self-flying asteroid concept sounds pretty unbelievable, but testing should be done in the next nine months to determine whether it’s truly feasible. The idea isn’t so impossible as some of the technology already exists including autonomous printers able to use mechanically driven systems. One of the real questions will simply be “is it economical?”

Made in Space hopes that at the conclusion of these nine months, they will have the exact technical and financial requirements required to make the 3D-printer-assisted-flying-asteroid scenario come to life. The Co-founder and CTO of Made in Space, Jason Dunn, shared some powerful words on the unbelievable project in his Medium post:

“Sure, turning an entire asteroid into something akin to the Antikythera Mechanism sounds like something out of science fiction. In fact, the name itself, RAMA, was inspired from Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama. But cool technologies have long been inspired by crazy visions of the future — made real by teams ready to take on a daunting new challenge.”