What do astronauts do when a piece of their machinery breaks or gets lost? Provided they don’t have extras on board, they would normally have to wait for a supply delivery. But NASA is thinking ahead to 2014, when they will send a specialized 3D printer up to the International Space Station.
Besides making replacement parts, NASA’s orbiting 3D printer will be used to produce tools and objects that can help the astronauts with their various crazy space experiments. The development could mean that less weight can be carried on board a shuttle since the astronauts will no longer have to have every possible replaceable part on hand. It’s like Star Trek, but even more awesome because it’s real.