Nasa sent the first 3D printer, among other supplies, to the International Space Station this morning.
Setting off at 6.52 a.m. GMT today (21 September), the Zero-G 3D printer – along with 20 mice and an environmental sensor – is set to arrive on 23 September and will be used to make replacement parts and tools aboard the space station.
Jeff Sheehy, NASA’s senior technologist, said that if it wants to “set up shop” on Mars then it needs to be able to replace equipment more efficiently.
“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.”
Objects printed will also be sent back to Earth in order to test their composition and strengths.
The astronauts intend to develop a recycling process for the printer which will break down excess materials.