NASA is looking to boldly take 3-D printing where no 3-D printer has gone before. As NASA plans ventures deeper into space, flights that already cost millions of dollars will become more expensive. NASA could defray those rising costs by enabling crew members in space stations to print tools, replacement spacecraft parts and, eventually, even structures in which they could live on alien planets.
The aeronautical agency next year will fly the first 3-D printer to the International Space Station, where crew members will conduct the first 3-D printing tests in near zero gravity. The new process could help curb costs of delivering cargo to the ISS, such as sample containers, replacement parts, and other essential objects, said Niki Werkheiser, project manager for 3-D printing in zero-G at NASA.