Like many new technologies being applied to this New Space Age, 3D printing has the potential to transform our future in ways we can't yet imagine.
The idea of being able to one day arrive at an alien world and manufacture everything needed from the surroundings may seem like something from science fiction - but in some cases, science fiction could be renamed science prediction.
Last week, this new 3D-printing industry, made a quite unassuming but significant leap forward, with the manufacture of the first ever item for a private citizen. (Items have been printed on board the space station before - including basic tools during 3D-print demonstrations - this is the first private commission.)
The print is a gravity meter - a device that is used to give astronauts a visual cue when they've left a gravitational environment - designed in the style of a modern-day sextant, to symbolize our future in space. On one side is an image of Buzz Aldrin on the moon, and on the others are the Made in Space logo - representing the company that commissioned the piece and built the printer - and Henry Crown Fellowship Program logo - an organization that seeks to develop the next generation of community-spirited leaders.
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"This is incredibly significant because it shows that access to space is far more affordable and readily available now that there is an alternative to launching objects on a rocket," said Jason Dunn, co-founder and chief technical officer at Made In Space who printed the gravity meter using their Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF) onboard the International Space Station. The AMF was installed on the ISS in 2016.
Prominent space investor and philanthropist Dylan Taylor, who worked with Made in Space on its design, commissioned the print for an undisclosed amount.
"I wanted to design something which symbolizes our new era in space," said Taylor, who plans to display the piece in the Museum of Science and Industry in back to Earth in April.
"My hope is that it helps start 'dinner table' conversations in people's homes," he told Seeker. "That non-space advocates will have their eyes opened by it and are inspired to better understand how space can positively impact humanity. It's just amazing to have a concept like this realized."