3D Printed Space Food

3D printed space food sounds like something out of a science fiction movie. However, it is actually more real than you may imagine. With new innovations happening every day, 3D printing space food is more than just a distant dream. The newest developments may soon make printing real, edible food a reality. If the “Print your own Space Food” challenge turns out to bring the right kind of results, then astronauts will soon have a lot more to look forward to than just frozen powders and oozy liquids that they are forced to have for their meals. If the issue of food in space is resolved, what does that mean for the future of space travel? Are we about to witness a whole spectrum of new possibilities open up in the space industry?

The challenge and the solution of 3D printed space food

NASA organises the “Print your own Space Food” challenge. The challenge is in fact a feasibility study that should show the possibilities of additive manufacturing for food. The main idea of the challenge is to collect a wide range of different ideas. The ideas should focus on how to manufacture food in space, especially by using the process of recycling.

A team of CalTech students came up with the winning solution called AstroGro. The winners have a completely different and very unique approach to this extremely demanding challenge. Instead of exploring the options of 3D printing actual food, they will make use of the 3D printers that already exist in space. However, these printers wouldn’t be used to print food. They would instead 3D print AI-enabled, recyclable pods in which the astronauts could organically grow food all by themselves.

How does AstroGro work?

The idea of astronauts growing their own food right in their own space shuttles is extremely exciting. It could mark a beginning of a new era is space travel. Up until now, they had to transport the food to the space stations. Doing that took up loads of precious energy as well as storage space on the space stations. However, a renewable source of food would mean that storing large amounts of food would no longer be necessary. Therefore, astronauts can sustain themselves for a much longer time when living in space. This opens up a whole new range of possibilities for space travel.

The AstroGro is genius and at the same time incredibly simple: a pod printed with 3D technology is integrated with artificial intelligence, which enables the astronauts to grow their own fresh food. The farming ecosphere is modular and growth of the food can be scaled, so the whole process is easy to control. Since the conditions in space are very unpredictable, the AstroGro is very adaptable; thanks to the AI, the conditions for plant growth are able to adapt to changes, which makes the entire system very reliable and resistant to a number of external disturbances.