The space agency made a splash with its headline-friendly plan to print pizzas in space.
But what exactly does the ability to create food for astronauts mean for our plans for exploring the galaxy?
Any kid who has taken a trip to a science museum has tried astronaut ice cream, the dehydrated treat that astronauts take up into space–where real frozen treats wouldn’t make it. But as we plan for longer space missions, isn’t there something more that we can provide our intrepid space explorers? The solution mirrors science fiction: Star Trekfeatured replicators able to summon any desired food out of thin air. A scientist has proposed creating the same thing for our real-life astronauts: a 3D printer that can make pizza (or anything else) in space, far away from fresh ingredients.
Earlier this month, Quartz broke the news that Systems & Materials Research Corporation received a $125,000 grant to spend six months building a prototype of a 3-D food printer–one that will be able to print out a tasty pizza before venturing on to other food items. I spoke to NASA to find out more about its interest in the technology.
The pizza printer is the brainchild of Anjan Contractor, a mechanical engineer at Systems & Materials who has long worked on 3-D printing technologies. According to his NASA proposal, the printer spits out starches, proteins, fats, texture, and structure, while the inkjet sprays on flavor, smell, and micronutrients.
He tells Quartz:
It works by first “printing” a layer of dough, which is baked at the same time it’s printed, by a heated plate at the bottom of the printer. Then it lays down a tomato base, “which is also stored in a powdered form, and then mixed with water and oil,” says Contractor.
Finally, the pizza is topped with the delicious-sounding “protein layer,” which could come from any source, including animals, milk or plants.
SPACE FOOD TODAY
You’re probably familiar with the kinds of foods that astronauts have access to today–it’s not all that different from the aforementioned “space ice cream” found in science museums the world over.
via FastCoExist – ARIEL SCHWARTZ
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