We all had a party on Twitter last week when NASA landed a new probe on Mars. But for people to land or live on Mars, they'll have to survive in a hostile environment where you can't just run to the hardware store for new tools ... or a new satellite or new house. So some companies are trying to move manufacturing to space. NASA contracted with one company, called Made in Space, to use a 3D printer for making tools on the International Space Station. One day it may be able to "print" satellites in space. In-space manufacturing may also be used to create better earthbound products. Certain materials are easier to work with in microgravity, like fiber-optic cables that can develop flaws in regular gravity. If those cables are built in space and sent back home, they can flawlessly send things like internet transmissions much faster. Molly Wood talked with Andrew Rush, president and CEO of Made in Space. She asked him how important making stuff in space is to space exploration. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Andrew Rush: I think on a scale of one to 10, 3D printing specifically — and in-space manufacturing more broadly — it's an 11. It's the bedrock technology that lets us go from doing sort of camping trips to space to going and staying.