When you are an astronaut living on the International Space Station (ISS), it would be best if you were prepared beforehand to bring everything that you need – and might need down the road throughout the entire duration of the mission, since it isn’t exactly located near a convenience store or supermarket should you require something like a spanner or some other kind of hardware. Well, thanks to the wonders of email and 3D printing, astronauts on the ISS will be able to print out selected spare parts as and when required. In fact, today is a landmark moment where it is the first time that hardware of any sort has been “emailed” to space.
NASA did that after receiving a request by ISS commander Barry Wilmore for a ratcheting socket wrench, so instead of spending millions of dollars to send that up to space, why not take the economical route and print it out in space instead? After all, email is basically free, so to speak, and it is far better to have the 3D printer print it out instead of waiting for months on end like in the past to wait for the requested parts to be flown up, riding piggyback on one of the regular supply flights.
It is nice to note that the 3D printer was installed on the ISS on 17 November earlier this year, and on 25 November, the machine went into action by fabricate a replacement part for the printer.