Scientists working on how to facilitate humans living on non-Earth-like planetary bodies have been focused on ways to use their local resources to sustain potential colonies. Now, a new study indicates that 3D printers could be the key to manufacturing tools and equipment on new planets.
In a paper published in the Rapid Prototyping Journal, scientists from Washington State University have indicated that it would be possible to use the Moon's own rocks to create tools and spare parts. Prompted by a meeting with NASA in 2010, the scientists were later able to use lunar regolith simulant (imitation Moon rocks) to create small 3D objects (shown in the photo above). The process, known as additive manufacturing, is seen as a possible method to help establish manned outposts on the Moon or Mars. Giving astronauts the ability to essentially "live off the land" by harnessing local resources could also serve to reduce the weight of spacecrafts.
Lead researcher Amit Bandyopadhyay, a professor at the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Washington State University, said, "It sounds like science fiction, but now it's really possible... As long as you can have additive manufacturing set up, you may be able to scoop up and print whatever you want. It's not that far-fetched."
You can watch Bandyopadhyay demonstrating the process in the video below.