HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Astronaut T.J. Creamer is a veteran of a six-month mission on the International Space Station. He understands what would be required for a manned mission to Mars.
"It takes us the shortest amount of time to get something to Mars, six months duration, and that's only if the planets are aligned correctly," said Astronaut Creamer. "So, if we're going to send somebody to Mars, you really want them to re-supply themselves right there."
The question is, how would the crew of a Mars mission do that? How would they re-supply themselves? The answer is likely to involve 3D printing, and engineers and technicians are Marshall Space Flight Center have been working on the project for years.
"We're qualifying parts to go in rocket engines on the ground now, but it's going to revolutionize the way things are made for space," says MSFC Engineer Ken Cooper.
Marshall has already successfully tested 3D printed parts for rocket engines, and every day they move farther down the road toward making hardware just as good as what's made using tried-and-true processes like casting and machining. The question is, how much can really be produced using 3D printing? Also, can the process really move to a micro-gravity environment like the ISS and still work?
Those are just two of the questions we'll be covering in our special report, 3D Printing In Space. It will air Thursday, October 10 on WHNT News 19 at 10:00 pm.