As fun as all the Mars Curiosity news has been, NASA has been busy with more than the rover.
While Curiosity investigates the shiny object recently spotted on Mars, thought to possibly be part of a meteorite, NASA has also been sharpening their recycling skills. This month, NASA delivered it’s first all in one 3D printer and recycler to the International Space Station. The “Refabricator” will take plastics of varying shapes and sizes and use them as “ink” or feederstock to 3D print tools and other equipment. Ideally, it will control material contamination and minimize damage while reprocessing the plastic waste, two things that are currently a real issue. Previously, replacement equipment has been shipped to the space station, and as you can imagine, that is no easy accomplishment. Not to mention the hefty price tag of nearly $45,000 per pound that it costs each time supplies are sent. NASA is hoping this closed loop solution will add another sustainable piece to the International Space Stations in-space manufacturing and will allow astronauts to take damaged, outdated, worn, or unnecessary tools and use them to create equipment they can utilize.
Mike Griffin, who serves Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, said, “One day, I don’t know when, but one day, there will be more humans living off the Earth than on it.” The trajectory is clear. The people of the future will be living under a very sustainable roof, thanks in part to recycling!