The emerging technology could radically alter the choice of food on space journeys, providing more variety.
We recently took a look at the history of space food, but 3D printing may radically change astronauts’ choices in the future. Wired examined how the emerging technology, which is being used to create items out of all sorts of materials, could one day provide custom, nutritious meals for someone on a space shuttle.
Fab@Home, the fabrication team at Cornell University, has developed gel-like substances called “hydrocolloids” that can be printed out in layers and mixed with flavoring agents to produce different tastes and textures.
3D printed meals still have a ways to come, as current limitations with the extruding system mean that many food items are a challenge to print with. But Wired notes some of the future possibilities:
A 3-D printer could mix vitamins and amino acids into a meal to provide nutrients and boost productivity. There are limitations to the types of fresh foods that can be grown in space – NASA says some of the best crops for a Mars mission are lettuce, carrots, and tomatoes. With that you could make a salad, but a 3-D printer could manufacture croutons or protein-dense supplements. The device could take up less space than a supply of packets of food and, because each item is custom built, would help cut down on waste.