Much more 3D printing info and news is coming out of NASA lately after taking their time to get into the field. But it appears this is their year in taking on 3D printing to its fullest advantage. No doubt it's been in the works for a while now, just like it's secretly being planned or currently implemented in many other major industries. With NASA planning to take a 3D printer up to the International Space Station this fall, the next step afterward is going to be printing things that can be sent directly into space.
This first plan is going to be printing a space telescope that's going to be a major lesson in how 3D printing can take something once large and reduce it considerably in size. As an idea implemented by NASA engineer Jason Budinoff, the new telescope is scheduled to be fully constructed this fall and may be taken to space very soon. What makes this telescope significant is that it's only going to be two inches in length, despite having intricate parts the largest telescopes all have.
It's a major showcase in how 3D printing can take complex parts once only made through traditional manufacturing and have them easily implemented into smaller form. The reason is because 3D printers can print things with complicated edges and structures that are impossible to create by hand. They can be made smaller this way, hence being able to design telescopes with easy transportability in space craft.
Budinoff, above, wants to also print the mirrors and lenses, which haven't been perfect yet through a 3D printer. This isn't to say printing glass and lenses isn't about to come true. It's just more complicated and costs more money to get it done correctly. In another few years, though, NASA may be printing out very powerful lenses on mini telescopes that could be sent into space to see things we've waited centuries to see.
Will 3D-Printed Telescopes Help Us See Farther into Space?
We're still waiting to see images of the Big Bang through the Hubble telescope and the other telescopes bringing us amazing space images every day. Once NASA sends out these new telescopes with powerful lenses, we'll have many more telescopes available to see farther out into space than ever before possible. Will it be a 3D-printed telescope or lens that finally captures the Big Bang to see our universal origins?
While it might still sound like a lofty attainment, NASA wants to take 3D printing all the way to other planets when we send astronauts there. On Mars, for instance, the plan is to have 3D printers on-site so supplies and even other telescopes could be made and used immediately.
It's a fast-track path NASA is on now that could all be in full reality within our lifetimes. We were probably overdue for 3D printing to change how we view space, just as much as it's changing our worldview here on Earth.