NASA’s Curiosity rover has inspired and thrilled us all with the stunning pictures it has sent back of the familiar red planet. Gazing in awe and wonder at the alien images of the beautifully desolate but Martian landscape, audiences are often not aware that NASA is already well into the testing stages of its next missions to Mars.
The ultimate goal is to send a manned mission to our third closest stellar neighbour – after Earth’s Moon and the inhospitable planet Venus: a mission which will require a very different kind of rover. This machine has already been built and tested, thanks in part to the 3DPrinter.
70 of the rover’s components have been manufactured using a 3DPrinter, allowing NASA to test and modify the designs before final production, thus saving valuable time and resources during the otherwise complex manufacturing process.
The futures of 3DPrinting and space exploration are inextricably linked: it was reported in July that NASA was testing a 3DPrinter in low gravity conditions. The Daily Mail
It has also been widely reported that NASA is planning to install a 3DPrinter on board the International Space Station by 2014. Geek.com
The aim is for astronauts to manufacture replacement parts in space, increasing their self-sufficient and reducing the need for costly and expensive re-supply missions.
NASA’s video shows the rovers being tested and highlights the components that were produced using 3DPrinting: http://youtu.be/8mc8exECgN8
More from NASA: http://marsrover.nasa.gov/mission/spacecraft_surface_rover.html